The Sunday Mail
SKID ROW is an infamous area in downtown Los Angeles in the United States, and is among the areas that carry the largest numbers of homeless people in that country.
In Skid Row, criminals, vagrants, alcoholics and prostitutes live and roam the streets freely, engaging in nefarious acts in broad daylight.
The world over, run-down and dilapidated urban areas are now commonly referred to as “Skid Rows.”
Harare, like most urban areas, has its own version of Skid Row.
An illegal settlement, which is located on the peripheries of the high-density suburb of Glen View is Zimbabwe’s version of the United States’ notorious downtown area.
Infamously referred to as “KuManhunzi,” (place of the flies), this compound is nestled on a piece of land which was previously a dumping site, hence the name.
The settlement came into being after a farm, which was located on the outskirts of Harare, was subdivided into residential stands, rendering the plot’s former workers homeless.
With nowhere to go, the former farm workers crossed onto the adjacent council land and erected shacks.
Over the years, prostitutes, vagrants, drug addicts and wanted criminals have joined the former workers, creating a “Skid Row” of their own in the process.
Sandwiched between Glen View 1 and Glen View 1 Extension, the illegal settlement is a narrow strip on which hundreds of plastic shacks are crammed in a long, single row.
Without basic amenities such as running water and ablution facilities, residents of this settlement rely on shallow wells and makeshift toilets.
Some of the shacks are perched on the edges of a stream that often overflows with human waste.
It is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands of people, call this shanty area their home.
But unlike other shanty settlements that are dotted across the country, this particular settlement has a reputation for accommodating people of dubious characters.
According to Glen View residents, the majority of the ladies-of-the-night that have turned the nearby Mataure Shopping Centre into their hunting ground reside at this overcrowded compound.
The sex workers are notorious for conniving with locals to rob those that would have made the grave mistake of allowing themselves to be lured into the settlement.
Wanted criminals are also believed to have found sanctuary at the compound.
Nhamo Machengete, a Glen View 1 resident, explained how the ladies-of-the-night and criminals operate.
“The prostitutes lure their clients to the shacks and once a client enters, the criminals, who will be monitoring the clients’ movements, then pounce on them. It is common for us to wake up and see men who would have been robbed and stripped naked,” Machengete said.
Illegal drinking spots, where illicit brews such as kachasu are sold in broad daylight, are dotted around this informal settlement.
The settlement is considered a no-go area for outsiders and visitors are treated with suspicion.
Apart from the drinking, which takes place from dusk to dawn, the residents partake in their own social and cultural activities, including Nyau dances.
However, residents of the shanty settlement believe that not all of them are bad apples.
A majority of them, they said, are law-abiding citizens.
“We are all being painted with the same brush. Some of us are upright citizens, who only came here because we could not afford the rentals that are being charged in Glen View,” said Alfred Moyo, a resident.
But residents of the more affluent Glen View 1 Extension are not happy with the presence of their neighbours.
“If I had my way, I would have wanted those people to go elsewhere. This settlement is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah,” said a Glen View 1 Extension resident, who preferred to remain anonymous.
Moyo, on the other hand, said he has no plans of going anywhere.
“I have never considered leaving this place. I am not employed and therefore, cannot afford to pay rentals. Where will I go?” a defiant Moyo said.
Gaudencia Marera, the local councillor, said the residents will only be moved after council has provided alternative land for them.
“This area, which is being occupied by the illegal settlers, is earmarked for home industries. As council, we will only move them after alternative land has been allocated. Well wishers assist the settlers with clean water,” Marera said.