Women,Girls Survive Cruel,Dangerous Life At Sidojiwe Flats

By Natasha Nare

BULAWAYO, November 3, 2015-Women at Sidojiwe Flats near Sizinda have aired out complaints on the squalid living
conditions that they have to bear with which they say are exposing them
and their families to a myriad of health and social risks.Their plea for better conditions has fallen on deaf ears for many years.

Sidojiwe Flats, a block of flats originally meant for bachelors in the
80s but became a source of hope for some who were affected by the
myriad challenges of life and Operation Murambatsvina which left an
estimated 700 000 homeless.
 The place is however overcrowded housing at least 1 000 against its
intended capacity of 200 people.

Upon visiting the block of flats, one is greeted by a heavy stench
with streams of raw sewage flowing from the flat- something that poses
a health hazard to the dwellers in the flats.

One cannot fail to see the broken windows covered by cardboard boxes
and black plastics- all in an effort to shield the dwellers from the
winds that blow on a daily basis.

Inside the hostels, kitchens are black with soot and most of the
toilets have been blocked but are still used posing a serious health

Rooms here are demarcated using curtains. Approximately four families
can share a room and get to pay $3 each to cover the cost of $12 a

This has killed the art of secrecy as parents can no longeravoid performing
conjugal activities under their children’s watch.

For Sihle Nyathi, 38, having seven children to take care of in the
midst of poverty is the worst ever challenge of a lifetime.

What makes it worse is the fact that she has to bring up her children
in an overcrowded and filthy environment, unfit for human habitation.

Nyathi had been staying with her husband in an illegal structure in
Bulawayo’s Njube suburb until misfortune struck them in 2008.

 “Having to take care of seven children on this kind of environment is
hard. This place is dirty and more often our children get diarrhoea.
Sometime last year our neighbour lost a child from dehydration caused
by diarrhoea.

“We are very poor and we cannot afford to send our children to school
thus they spend most of the time at home. Those who go to school have
to walk long distances and this is not good for a child. Many of our
children also do not have birth certificates.

“We have already predicted our children’s future is doomed. We cannot
raise enough money for school fees and most are sent back home for
non-payment of school fees,” Nyathi said.

Sidojiwe hostels are well known for the high rate of criminals and the
place is rife with prostitution because of unemployment.

“I’m not afraid to say this but where we are is a breeding ground for
thugs. Our girls are entering into prostitution with the men at the
hostels just to get a dollar.

“The Bulawayo City Council should do something for us. Its either they
renovate this place or provide for us better places to stay,” Nyathi

Because of the confinement of the environment, women are abused and
most have to bear the burden of taking care of the children since
their husbands have left to the neighbouring South Africa.

40 year old Mildred Banda told Radio VOP that women have to bear the
most burdens at the hostels.

“We do not wish to be here but we were forced to habitat here because
we had no other place to go after 2005’s operation Murambatsvina
struck us.

“As women we face a lot at the hostels, beginning of the year a woman
was raped at the hostels and but she recently reported the matter to
the police who said they are yet to look for evidence. The kind of
life here is dangerous especially for the girl child.

“Women are targeted more by the thugs here. You cannot walk freely
here when you are a woman some of us have to hide our cell phones in
our undergarments when we move around,” Banda said.

Ntombiyenguni Siwela said women have to do all the dirty chores at the hostels.

“As women we have to bear the burden of trying to clean up this place
so that our children live in a proper environment.

“We have to pick up humane waste, used condoms and clean the toilets.