As one draws near the ghost and shanty Mbare Musika bus terminus, the sound of groaning and hissing buses start to grow louder and louder.Each time a bus screech to a stop, a mob of excited vendors outstrip each other racing to the grating bus to trade their stuff. They tussle for the best spot as they race against time to finish their wares before dusk.
At one end of the terminus is a group of young men enjoying the fatal, alcoholic and illegal ‘zed’ drink. At the centre of the terminus are touts clamoring for travellers. Some are snatching bags from the travellers, confusing them so much so that they end initially boarding buses that are not even going to their destinations.
On the other end, a young lady in her early twenties is helping her two siblings to bath – a clear indication that the bus terminus has become home for them. A few metres away a woman who identified herself as Theresa is struggling to keep the fire burning – together they make up the Chiuswa family.
While many people find comfort in their homes, the Chiuswa family has a different story to tell. Like many other people, they do not celebrate the sunset because for them, another uphill task of spending cold nights on pavements begins.
Narrating her ordeal to 263Chat, Theresa Chiuswa, who is in custody of her 3 kids revealed how she ended up being stationed at Mbare Musika.
Having failed to raise the amount of money needed for rentals in the shabby and metallic cabin houses which are located in the banks of Mukuvisi River she had to resign herself to fate.
“Life is so nasty and sometimes I wonder if I will ever enjoy the fruits of a normal life,” Theresa said with tears trickling down her cheeks
“We came to Harare in 2012 when things were so bad back home in Mutoko after being fooled that life in the capital was rosy.
“Street life is not pleasing at all as you are exposed to all the dangers of the night, at times drunkards will come and wake us up and sometimes beat you up, on the other hand police officers and council authorities chase us as they do not tolerate our presence on the terminus,” said Theresa.
Theresa, who hails from Mutoko revealed to 263Chat that verbal abuse from people who pass by is the order of the day as they perceive them as insane people.
She went on to reveal that the money she earns from collecting used plastic bottles is not sufficient for her to afford accommodation.
“I rely on collecting used plastic bottles, but the money I get is not sufficient for me to rent a single room as we earn a paltry amount and the major problem these days is that the business has flooded as many unemployed people are turning to this business ,’’ revealed Theresa.
Theresa and her family are not the only homeless people in Harare as Forgive Mhindu, (not his real name) a 12 year old boy faces a similar situation.
The 12 year boy old boy met with 263Chat while enjoying a handful of potato chips donated by a passing sympathiser.
Mhindu told us about the vicious treatment they are subjected to by their elderly mates on the streets.
“If we want to secure a place to spend the night at any hideout with lit fire you have to find food for the bigger boys, failure of which will result in us being evicted from the base,” said Forgive
The pavement outside retail outlets like Innov8 Bookshop in Harare CBD has become home to scores of homeless teenagers.
Sharon Munemo 22, a street dweller also narrated her ordeal.
‘It’s not easy being a woman living on the streets,’ said Munemo while she tried to keep away flies that were hovering over her two year old daughter.
“I have to walk one street after the other in search of food for myself and my child and at times people perceive me as mentally handicapped while a lot of them detach themselves from me.
“Some males on the streets are very hostile as they chase me away from their bases,” said Sharon, adding that some demand sexual favours in return for security throughout the night.
According to George Masimba of Dialogue on Shelter close to 500 000 people in Harare are homeless.
Masimba went on to say that the number of homeless people in the capital is on the increase because of the increasing rural to urban migration.
“Rural dwellers perceive life in the urban areas to be rosy and they end up swarming in urban areas with nowhere to go,” said Masimba.
The national housing backlog is estimated at more than one million, with the capital city alone having more than 500,000 families on the waiting list.
In 2009 close to 900 000 Zimbabweans were recorded to be homeless and in the same year a research conducted by Streets Ahead shows that 705 children reside in the streets of Harare.