|Life goes on at Mbare’s Matapi|
|Saturday, 12 November 2011 18:30|
Lincoln Towindo and Edwin Mwase
“All my life I have not known any other home besides this one-roomed hostel,” says Ms Mercy Gora (39), a resident of Matapi flats in Harare’s Mbare.
The widowed mother of three lives with her children in a rundown, dirty walled, small and crammed room inherited from her late parents.
Clearly intoxicated, Ms Gora callously delves into her late husband’s lifestyle, graphically describing his sexual escapades with countless other women in the flats including her former best friend.
From her shebeen, “Mother”, as Ms Gora is referred to by the dozens of patrons who frequent her establishment everyday, also emerges a link between her customers and drug peddlers and prostitutes.
The street-wise mother acts as a pimp to dozens of young girls aged between 16 and 25 who engage in daylight prostitution. A short-time session with the girls costs between US$5 and US$10 depending on the age. At the end of the day, the girls declare a “dividend” to her for hooking them up.
Hardcore drugs such as mbanje, illicit alcoholic brews and potent cough mixtures are also readily available inside the block of flats.
This news crew, assigned to spend a day at the flats, found that life within the Matapi complex was not for the faint-hearted. Almost all the infrastructure is run down following years of neglect.
“It is unfortunate that our country, having come this far, still has people living under such conditions,” lamented Mr Hankumba Muleya, who claims to be one of the first people to find a home in the flats.
Crime and other seedy activities are rampant in broad daylight.
Residents believe hardcore criminals, some of them on the police wanted list, are believed to be hiding in the flats.
“The sheer number of criminals residing here is simply shocking,” said a resident who refused to be named.
One could be deceived by the thousands of satellite dishes hanging from the windows as a sign of affluence at the flats. However, a brief tour of the flats and the surrounding environs exposes the poverty and pauperism that is widespread here.
“Without any other economic generating activity, hordes of youths turn to drugs and alcohol to try and ease their life troubles,” said Mr Muleya.
Political parties have cashed in on the desperate situation of the jobless youths as they find soft targets to recruit for violent activities. Town planning experts have urged the responsible authorities to at least bring down some of the structures which cannot be repaired and construct other low-income houses for the residents.
An expert in town planning, Mr Gideon Banda, said some of the structures at Matapi are fast becoming inhabitable and pose great risks in times of diseases and natural disasters.