By Jeoffrey and Nkosilathi Ncube.
As Zimbabwe grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic and faces its 10th day of the three-week lockdown, big businesses and other retail outlets remain shut as people heeded the lockdown and are working from home.
Great Dyke News 24 established that staying in your own home is easy in Borrowdale but a very different story in high density suburbs where people live in close proximity to each other hence social distancing is an everyday challenge.
Of course, people in Borrowdale have the luxury of space and money — both crucial when you’re told to stay in your home and sit tight for three months. In the densely populated townships, however, life for the most part continues as usual.
Mbare was the first high-density suburb (township), to be established in Harare in 1907. Before independence, Mbare was called Harare, meaning the place where people do not go to sleep.
Many of today’s prominent leaders have at one time or another lived in the suburb, with a good measure of them having been born and bred there.
The now-teeming suburb renowned for as many as five families living in flats designed for single men, is well known for its cut-throat business pursuits that range from scrap metal trading, hawking and drug peddling.
These people are living on borrowed hope since there are no confirmed reports of positive Covid-19 cases among residents, so the throngs on the streets and queues outside grocery stores have not all disappeared.
Mbare is always busy, with children playing, cars and taxis driving by and people hanging out on street corners in groups despite the call by the President to maintain social distance.
Since the lockdown, things have not been good for people who live in Mbare and other high density suburbs of Harare.
This is the story of Tariro Chikara , a 25 year old lady who shares a one room residence with more than 5 other family members with no yard to play in, the kids end up playing in the streets with other children who also have no other form of entertainment at home.
“I was born in 1995 and raised here in Matapi flats and l am a mother of two, we stay in a one-roomed house divided with a curtain.
“The room is divided into three such that my brother and his wife sleeps on the other side of the curtain while all the boys and girls occupy the middle part whilst our parents will be on the other side.
“With our daily routine there is nothing new about twelve people living under one roof because we barely spend time together ,so we manage very well.
“But this is no longer the case under the ongoing lockdown aimed at mitigating the spread of the deadly covid-19.
“Close contact is said to be the major cause of the spread of this disease but for us, the word social distance is impossible.If we stay at home for the whole day we will die of hunger ,” she said.
“Isu tigagara paden tofa nenzara plus tokanganisa vana moms namdara time yavo.Totoswera mumarounds tichingwavha ngwavha,”shouted one boy at the vegetable market.
“We survive on a hand-to-mouth system. One day of us not working disturbs our income. Imagine a two week lockdown ?,” he asked.
The 21 day lock down further complicated life for some residents sharing accommodation in Matapi.
In most times, two families or more rent a one-roomed house .
Living so closely together for an extended period exacerbates tensions between couples which increases the likelihood of domestic violence. The risk is much higher where there is an existing history of abuse.
Countries throughout the world are recording spikes in the incidence of domestic violence.
“Having to live in such a small house with so many people is a reflection of abject poverty.
“It’s impossible for three families to live harmoniously for 21days in such a set up.
Up to 100 children live in this flat, where nearly 500 of us share two taps and eight toilets.” said Mongiwe Moyo (45 year old).
Families take turns to clean the shared accommodation and fights ensue when things go missing around the house.
In such instances, the situation gets very bad and some family members end up fighting and threatening to inflict serious harm on each other.
According to the Women’s Rights Watch 2020, the Government should be aware of the problem of increased domestic violence during the lockdown.
They say that more facilities should be made available, and more information on the problem and on where help is available should be distributed nation-wide through government channels.
“NGO’s play their part but basically the Government is responsible for the welfare of its people and we call upon Government Ministries to see that more is done to protect those who are exposed to domestic violence during this period of lockdown,”reads part of the report.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday revealed that government will continue to review its actions to contain Covid-19 after the lockdown and adjust on time where necessary.
Speaking after touring many high-density suburbs in Harare and Chitungwiza to see for himself what was happening, he said.
Government was alive to the economic and social implications of the lockdown, but he would not prejudge that decision.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has recorded its second COVID-19 death, with a 79-year-old Bulawayo man succumbing to the disease on Saturday.
*This is the first article in a series examining how coronavirus lockdowns are affecting vulnerable people around the world.