Home » General » Hopley Farm – Hope Springs Eternal

Hopley may sound positive and optimistic as a name but the situation on the ground is dire for the estimated 15 000 residents. Without the basic amenities of potable water, electricity and other infrastructure and grappling with socio-economic issues, rampant crime, sexual abuse and prostitution involving minors, it does not look well for Hopley residents.

Settlement at Hopley Farm began in 2005 following Operation Murambitsvina in which Government tried to de-congest some of the suburbs in Harare. Hopely was earmarked for resettlement.

The resettlement, which also included people who had set up camp at Churu, Cledonia and Porta farms, was done under Operation GarikaiHlalani Kuhle.

That leads to the second irony: life at Hopley is hardly pretty amid overcrowding, prostitution and crime as the area is no longer a preserve for the Murambatsvina-displaced but a free-for-all settlement as people have been drawn by the prospect of owning residential stands.

It is also cheap to rent here. A room costs an average of US$30.

But beyond the low rentals, there is nothing else hopeful.

Mai Mambunya, who has lived in Zone 4 for four years, says Hopley’s problems are innumerable.

“The biggest problems have to do with the shebeens and the prostitution. We hardly sleep at night because of the noise coming from the bars and the prostitutes make this place unsightly.

“We lack cleanliness here as there is no one to collect garbage while the roads are so poor that kombis are no longer plying some routes. There are no Government schools and the local colleges are run by unqualified teachers. Our children have to go to Glen View and Chitungwiza for education,” she says.

Water is a major problem.

“We have few communal taps in the whole area but the water comes in drips and drops. There are three boreholes of which one has broken down. We have a problem with the people on whose residences the boreholes are sunk as they make incessant demands for money for securing the boreholes and repairs.”

Gamuchirai Munganasa (41) has lived here for two years. She accuses the Harare City Council of failing to service and develop the area.

Pamela Chisindi (28), who runs a canteen, is alive to the problems in Hopley. She is especially revolted by the overcrowding and the prostitution (Chisindi says commercial sex work is a major employer in these parts) but she will not go away.

“I will stay on until there is development. We just hope it will come soon.”

Life should be easier for those running small businesses in the area, but the general economic climate has left them reeling.

David Jasi has a makeshift liquor store at the notorious PaAnthony and he says business is declining, even with the arrival of tobacco farmers at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors.

“We used to cash in on the farmers but because this year the prices have not been favourable to them, we are also in trouble. The best I can manage is selling two crates of clear beer and three crates of scuds (opaque beer),” he laments.

He somehow has to make this pitiful revenue pay for his four children’s school fees and transport.

Lawful raids and extortion by unscrupulous cops means he often gets less than anticipated.

Jasi says the authorities should allocate them business stands so that they formalise their operations. His liquor store is on his 160 square meter residential stand, which he moved onto in 2010.

“Drinkers were being murdered, mugged and run over by cars while trying to cross the road as they came from KwaMazvimbakupa and we identified the need for selling beer here.

“Right now I do not have an operating or liquor license and it is problematic as we fall prey to extortion. If authorities allocate us stands, starting with us who are already established, we will be able to do things properly,” he says.

“We also need an industrial site so that people can have various activities there.”

Desperate

Many people point an accusing finger at the city council and Government for doing precious little to bring hope to Hopley.

Harare South National Assembly representative Cde Shadreck Mashayamombe (Zanu-PF) agrees.

“Council did nothing . . . until people started building houses next to Granville Cemetery but we have met as the leadership in the area and drastic action needs to be taken before the situation becomes uncontrollable,” he says.

Harare Residents Trust has called for urgent municipal intervention.

“The situation at Hopley is desperate and needs urgent intervention by the local authority, central Government and humanitarian organisations. What needs to be done immediately is to provide residents with water in their homes, regular refuse collection and establishing a council office there to ensure that the citizens are properly and adequately serviced,” director Mr Precious Shumba says.

He goes on: “The council has to make sure that the people in that settlement are educated on the city by-laws, regulations and in turn put up community infrastructure that brings the town to the community rather than the current rural set up in an urban settlement.

“The Government has to demonstrate that it cares for the people in vulnerable circumstances and accelerate the decentralisation of municipal services to ensure equitable distribution of public resources.”

Crime

Police have expressed concern at crime rates in the area especially sexual offences involving minors, prostitution, robberies, and drug and alcohol abuse.

ZRP Harare Metropolitan provincial spokesperson Inspector Tadius Chibanda attributes most of the rape to the absence of parents, who are not usually at home and leave children alone as they go in search of that extra dollar that makes the difference between supper and going to bed hungry.

“There is also rampant prostitution involving even children aged below 15 because the parents are busy trying to earn a living and the levels of poverty are quite high. Robbers also take aantage that there are no street lights and most of these perpetrators are locals.

“It is, however, very difficult to account for these criminals because the houses are not numbered and there are no physical addresses,” he says.

Insp Chibanda speaks of assault occurring at the slightest provocation due to alcohol and substance abuse.

“Cases of assault and domestic violence are also rampant in the area because people abuse common drugs like dagga and other illicit brews. We are, however, worried about cases of prostitution involving minors and some of the unemployed youths.

“We have established a police post closer to the area in a bid to curb such crimes. We have established Neighbourhood Watch Committees and there are people going through vetting as we look at expanding these committees.”

He says it is Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri’s desire to rid the force of corruption and any officer caught demanding or receiving a bribe will be punished.

“The people should play their part in curbing corruption and avoid offering bribes when they are arrested,” Insp Chibanda urges.

Plans

Cde Mashayamombe says there are plans to build flats so that more people can get decent accommodation.

“We are looking for investors who can build at least two-roomed houses for the people on mortgage. The idea of flats is also welcome since more people could be accommodated while the investors could sell some of the flats to Harare residents,” he says.

He, however, believes that for this to work the problem of unemployment must first be tackled.

“We have engaged Irvine’s to assist in training our people in chicken rearing. The people can then be contracted to provide chickens to this company.

“We have trained more than 200 women in sack potato farming and if funds permit more would be trained so that our people become self-reliant. ”

Cde Mashayamombe says youth brigades can mould bricks.

Further Zesa has committed to electrify the area but “we have to make sure that the residents get proper documentation for their stands so that they start paying rates and tariffs to council”.

Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi had not replied to questions emailed to him at the time of writing, but residents say they pay US$5 to build houses on council land.

Council has reportedly allowed stand owners to form co-operatives for parallel development of their area, especially on servicing.

There are indications that council presently has no budget to develop Hopely, and so for now hope remains dim.

Source : The Herald

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