Media update on Mbare’s Matapi Flats
Date: 23 July 2019
23 July 2019, Matapi Flats –The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) had undertook a tour of the iconic Matapi Flats on 22 July 2019, following up the previous visit on 03 April 2019 with the intention of probing and assessing the developments there. During the first visit the flats which are virtually dilapidated were being painted on the outside despite their deteriorating state. The Matapi Flats were being painted by government in partnership with the City of Harare, under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) priority projects. The HRT therefore visited the flats to see if there was any progress of the refurbishment project. The residents in Matapi reported that the day that President Emerson Mnangagwa visited the flats was the last day they saw workers who were repainting the flats, Blocks 4 and 5. The blocks were half painted and ever since that day that was that, it is now nearly four months and they have never heard from the TSP project team and the City of Harare on what has constrained the refurbishment project. The hostels are in a mess especially in the bathrooms, toilets and sinks. The living standards of Mbare residents are very poor as they get to share a one roomed house for two to three families made up of between five to seven people in each family. There is evident poor sewer reticulation resulting in sewerage bursts, spilling from the top floors to the ground floor, through cracks. Inconsistent refuse collection has become a major problem in the suburb. They do not have water. The residents rely on water fetched from uncovered and unsafe wells for domestic use from the nearby Mukuvisi stream. The flats are still in the same state as they were visited on 03 April 2019. Nothing has changed. Rather, the situation is worsening with the socio-economic hardship in the country. Below we highlight what we observed during this latest tour;
Bathrooms – The bathrooms are dysfunctional and there is messy water on the worn-out floors. The bathrooms are not usable as they were not renovated. The Council is showing some negligence to the residents in Matapi. They do not clean the bathrooms for them. Sometimes the residents clean the toilets without safety wear, and other times they go and fetch the water while the council workers clean.
Toilets – There is a serious shortage of toilets as one block each floor consists of 60 different rooms sharing one toilet. Some of the toilets were left closed with the TSP and the City of Harare and residents were told not to open them because they were under reconstruction. It has been four months now and they have not come to finish off the work. Residents therefore had to unlock the toilets because they had nowhere else to go or no other toilets to use. The toilets are not usable due to the water crisis. There is always sewerage blockage. The pipes are too small to hold the population of the residents in Matapi flats. The toilets have deteriorated to the extent of residents resorting to Mukuvisi River to relieve themselves. On the floors and passages, the HRT team observed human faeces and there is no water to clean them. The City council workers do not clean the toilets. When they do clean them, they request the residents to fetch water for them to clean the toilets.
Sewerage bursts –The sewer bursts are not being attended to on time as raw sewer can be seen flowing especially at Block 1 through to Block 5. Sewerage is all over inside and around the Matapi Flats. Children play in this sewerage and sometimes the sewerage flows into the residents’ houses from the toilets through the corridors. If the sewer bursts are not being attended on time the outbreaks of cholera and typhoid would be unavoidable in Mbare suburb, with the flats being the hot spots.
Sinks – The sinks needs to be renovated. Only one sink in block 4A was renovated and tiled. The rest of the sinks do not have taps, do not have water which forces women to go to the bathrooms in Block 5 to fetch water for washing dishes or rely on water from the uncovered and unsafe wells from the Mukuvisi River. Some of the residents are now doing their laundry in the same sinks meant for washing dishes, others resort to Mukuvisi River. The sinks are in a mess and needs immediate attention.
Housing – The Matapi Flats are over populated. Many families are sharing a one roomed houses. The flats were initially built for bachelors to live in during the colonial administration but due to population growth the number of residents in these flats has increased. A resident of Block 5 said that people in Matapi Flats need to be relocated as they are living with an average of two to three families in one room. She said that they are willing to be relocated to any free space where they can build their houses. She said this was culturally disturbing. The sharing of a one roomed house has resulted in cultural erosion, extra marital affairs and early child marriages. Due to shortage of accommodation young girls have been exposed to prostitution as they tend to share sleeping spaces with boys from the same blocks they live in. The situation has been worsened by electricity shortages. During the prolonged darkness, residents said couples have sex in corridors and leave used condoms strewn all over, thus exposing children to high immorality and sexual abuse.
Electricity supplies- The ZESA substation which is behind Mbare Matapi District Office is in such an awful state and it needs immediate attention. It was just painted outside but it has no roof and residents are worried that when the rain season is upon us anything can happen. The residents are pleading with the electricity service provider to urgently attend to this structure in order to save human lives. Residents who used to rely on making samosas and fritters for sale can no longer make a living out of their daily activities. The disabled and also the elderly are starving as they do not have other sources of energy to use for cooking. Rosy Karumazondo (81) displayed scars that she sustained when she was burnt when a candle fell on her blanket as she slept. Also ZESA load shedding has largely affected the lives of the residents of the Matapi flats. Electricity is switched off at 4am and switched on at 11pm. The prolonged darkness has increased sexual encounters among people in corridors. Cases of young girls and women being fondled on their buttocks and breasts are whispered by concerned residents. Sadly, darkness is always accompanied by indecency in the flats.
Erratic Water Supply– There has been inconsistence in water supplies at Matapi Flats. The shortages of water have resulted in residents using dirty water from Mukuvisi River. This is the same river that raw sewage flows to so the water is very unsafe for domestic use. They sometimes fetch water from the borehole but due to stairs they have to climb and some of the residents being elderly and disabled most of them use water from the nearby wells.
Refuse Collection– There is no refuse collection at the Matapi Flats. This has resulted in well-known dumpsites between Block 4 and Block 5 and the other one behind Block 3. Flies are all over and the residents’ health is at risk.
The living standard of living for residents in Matapi Flats is very poor. One resident claimed that they are living in ‘prison’ it is only because they have no choice but they are facing hard times.
For further details, please contact Portia Chando, 0773793599 or Gaudencia Timbatimba 0785081576. A full report detailing the proceedings of the tour will be shared in due course.