Feature & Worldwide
People of sober habits, liberty takers and those of loose morals, not to mention illegal immigrants, are among those who call Epworth home.
Epworth: Where even the poor survive By Features Editor Isdore Guvamombe DRIVING along Chiremba Road to the southeast of Harare past the suburbs of Hillside, Braeside, Cranborne, Queensdale and Hatfield one comes across the imposing Chiremba Balancing Rocks. The rocks that have for years graced Zimbabwe’s banknotes, as a symbol of national beauty and the country’s geological splendour, have stood the test of time and remain a stark declaration of nature’s generosity to this country. Just beyond the beautiful rocks is a teeming slum settlement called Epworth. This is, no doubt, Harare’s Soweto reincarnate. There is everything for everyone here. People of sober habits, liberty takers and those of loose morals, not to mention illegal immigrants, are among those who call Epworth home. Place names in the area are derived mostly from geographical features, personalities, bars, schools even shops. They include Chiremba, Munyuki, Solani Heights, New Gada, Zimunhu, Muza, Chinamano and Domboramwari which is popular with apostolic sects that hold prayers there. With no stand numbers and street names, life in Epworth is as easy as it is difficult. For your mail, you either use the school address or the police station where the letters are stashed in a huge cardboard box. If you suspect either your friends or beloved ones have written you, you visit the box and sift through mounds of paper. Letters can also be hand posted, but at the risk of compromising confidentiality. Cellphones have also come in handy as people can easily phone or text messages to their friends and loved ones. Alighting from a kombi at any one of the stations, one is able to buy “tsaona”. Tsaona is a package of one-meal ingredients ranging from meat, cooking oil, salt, sugar, mealie-meal to cooking oil. “With $2, you buy maize meal in a cup, salt and sugar in a teaspoon, cooking oil in a bottle top and one chicken or beef piece, for one meal only. You buy slices of bread and you can charge your cellphone for 50 cents from batteries and shops. “Since there is no electricity except at the shops and institutions like the clinic and police stations, vendors use candles or home-made lights for the market till late,’’ explains Epworth resident Cephas Mhute. Such is life in Epworth that you do not need to buy a month’s grocery at once. The slums are a security risk and you do not need to keep food there because they are easily broken into. Even those butcheries and supermarkets do not package more than 500 grammes of meat for no one buys huge quantities. Lack of household electricity is also a major problem. In the bars, where high volume discos pierce the night, there is lawlessness. Women, some of them self-professed prostitutes, take their babies with them into the bars and no one bates an eyelid. In one nightclub our crew came across a woman with a two-month-old baby on her back in a bar. She was proudly looking for “short-time” clients. “I was impregnated by a soldier whom I lived with for a month, but he denied paternity and has since moved to Battlefields Camp near Kadoma. “We met in the bar and went home for the night and he decided to become my live-in boyfriend. When I told him I was pregnant after a month of living together, but he abandoned me. “After I gave birth, I stayed home for 11 days. It was then that I realised that if I did not go to the bar, my child and myself would starve. “I have been coming here in search of clients ever since my child was 11 days old,’’ explains, the woman who only wanted to be identified as Tsitsi. When she gets a client who does not want to go home with her and prefers a dark bushy area, Tsitsi leaves the child in the hands of her friends only to return a few minutes later to collect her But is that kind of environment conducive for the child’s upbringing? “I have no choice because if I don’t do that she will starve. I am fending for my child and myself. If I go to my rural home in Murehwa who will take care of me and the child? My mother is old and cannot afford to look after me and the baby. I actually send her groceries,’’ she explains. There are also door-to-door vendors selling everything from kitchenware to meat, clothes and blankets. This writer witnessed someone buying a wet blanket. It had obviously been stolen from the washing line in nearby Hatfield. “Such things are normal here. You can buy anything for a song. Of course, most of things are stolen. You might even buy a blanket stolen from a grave,’’ said the buyer. Epworth has over the years been notorious for harbouring some of Harare’s most wanted and dangerous criminals. The absence of house numbers and street names, coupled with darkness is a blessing for criminals on the run from the long arm of the law. Television sets, radios, DVD players, clothes and vehicle spare parts are sold openly in the dusty streets, although every sale is done in private — and at your own risk. Should you be arrested for buying stolen goods, you face the music alone. Sometimes the criminals sell state-of-the-art gadgets just for just enough money to buy beer, confirming the adage easy come, easy go. Prostitutes also harbour criminals who want a temporary refuge — for a price, of course. Accommodation is cheap in Epworth, where a room goes for between US$5 and US$10 a month. In most suburbs, a room costs between US$25 and US$30. Not surprisingly, security guards comprise the bulk of Epworth’s working class.
3 Chiluba’s verdict postponed LUSAKA. — The verdict in former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba’s trial has been postponed until Monday, in what has been described as a landmark corruption case for an African ex-head of state. Chiluba is still popular among Zambia’s poor despite charges of stealing nearly US$500 000 of public funds. A tough sentence may stir political tension in Africa’s biggest copper producer. Critics accuse African governments of failing to crack down on corruption. Magistrate Jones Chinyama told the court he would deliver the verdict on Monday, instead of yesterday as expected. Chiluba denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a political campaign by opponents to ruin him. Chiluba led Zambia for a decade, after ousting liberation hero Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia’s multiparty elections in 1991. The former trade unionist was hailed as a democrat after helping to dismantle Kaunda’s communist single party rule, which lasted 27 years. In the past six years, Zambia has jailed several prominent figures, including senior officials and ministers who served under Chiluba’s 10-year administration, which ended in 2001. Chiluba’s wife, Regina, was jailed for three-and-a-half years for corruption in March. She has appealed against the verdict to the high court, which is yet to make a final decision. — Reuters.
Three injured in explosion JOHANNESBURG. — An underground explosion yesterday morning at a coal mine owned by Shanduka Coal in South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province injured three workers and the mine was temporarily shut down, an official said. The explosion occurred at the Springlake Colliery near the town of Dundee, and investigations as to what caused it were ongoing, Hentie Hoffmann, the chief operating officer of the unlisted Shanduka Coal said. Of the three injured, one was badly burnt and was airlifted to a hospital in Johannesburg. About 17 workers were at the section of the mine when the explosion happened and were taken to hospital for medical checks and received treatment for shock. About 10 would be kept overnight for further treatment. “At this stage there is no death. One worker suffered bad burns,” Hoffmann said. “Coal production at the mine has been halted to allow for investigations.” South Africa has a high rate of work-related mining deaths. Last year 168 workers died in mines. More than 100 miners have been killed in mines so far this year. Shanduka Coal is owned partly by the private Shanduka Group in which black business magnate and former union leader Cyril Ramaphosa is the main shareholder, Hoffmann said. The mine — acquired on July 1 this year from Petmin Ltd — produces 40 000 tonnes of coal a month. — Reuters.
Pirate attack thwarted
PARTY TIME . . . A reveller performs acrobatics while his barefooted female colleague does justice to a sungura song in the dead of the night in Epworth recently.
NO RULES . . . A woman chats with guzzlers while strapping a child on her back despite legislation which prohibits children from liquor outlets. Around 4am they gather at a designated place to begin their 20km cycle journey to their various workstations in Harare’s industrial sites. They cycle in groups to avoid muggers.
Epworth has been an integral part of Harare since the 1920s. It still remains essentially an informal settlement. Whether it will be one day become a modern-day suburb is
anybody’s guess. But for now, one thing is certain — the residents are living their lives to the full.
BERLIN. — A German Navy helicopter thwarted a suspected pirate attack on a Turkish ship in the Gulf of Aden yesterday by firing warning shots at a speed boat as it approached the MS Elgiznur Cebi, the German armed forces said. Responding to a call for help from the Turkish vessel, the German helicopter from the warship Bremen, part of a European Union mission to combat piracy, spotted a speed boat with six people and ladders in it. It fired warning shots and the speed boat stopped. A Greek naval vessel, the HS Narvarinon, also responded to the call for help then boarded the speedboat and discovered weapons on board. Piracy has surged off the Somali coast in recent years where sea gangs continue to defy foreign navies patrolling the vast shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe. Germany has two warships patrolling in the region. Piracy attacks around the world more than doubled to 240 from 114 during the first six months of the year, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre. — Reuters.