Chitungwiza: A Poverty Stricken town

Wome carrying firewood in Chitungwiza recently

By Margret Chogugudza

While poverty in Zimbabwe used to be a serious concern for rural folks only and urban areas were regarded as greener pastures, where coming to town was the only way of ending poverty for rural folks, today this outlook has been completely eroded.

Looking at the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, poverty has become pervasive and widespread over the years.

Poverty has skyrocketed in the sprawling town of Chitungwiza and many residents have fallen and become trapped into a cycle of vulnerability and hardship. Women carrying firewood on their heads has become common sight leading one to wonder whether he or she is in rural village or in a town with electricity. It is very sad that most people in the town cannot afford to pay for electricity hence like their rural counterparts depend on firewood for cooking.

And this is the story for Rumbidzai Shumba, who rents a one room with her four children.

“I stay with my four children in one room in St Mary’s and the house we rent has no electricity, therefore I usually go to Mayambara to fetch firewood to cook food for myself and the children. I choose to rent a room with no electricity because I cannot afford to pay for electricity and the room is cheaper than the ones with electricity,” said Rumbidzai Shumba.

“I struggle to put food on the table for my children and with paying rent for the one room therefore, paying for electricity is a luxury that I cannot afford,” continued Shumba.

Street vendors have become a major part of Chitungwiza’s large informal sector. Door to door vendors, vendors who walk around with pushcarts as well as those at verandas of buildings, open spaces at shopping centres are a common sight in Chitungwiza. It seems as if vending is the only job that is left in the town due to the increasing number of vendors.

Evelyn Goko, a vendor at Chigovanyika shopping center said she struggles to pay rent and put food on the table.

“I used to aspire to becoming a nurse but I have since given up my dream because I know that I will probably never be able to raise the money needed for one’s training to be a nurse. My family survives from the money I get from selling fish and the money we acquire is not even enough to pay rentals and provide for meals”, said Evelyn Goko.

The situation has become so bad to the point where other families cannot even afford to send their children to school. Children wake up in the morning to spend the rest of the day playing at home and others helping their families by selling different goods and products. Chitownews reporters came across a young girl identified as Nyasha at Makoni shopping center selling boiled eggs at around 11 am when she is supposed to be school.

Talking to the reporters Nyasha said she is supposed to be doing grade 6 but she is not attending school because her mother cannot afford to pay her school fees.

“My father died in 2010 leaving my mother to take care of me and my three siblings. My mother who is not employed and does small jobs for people in exchange for old clothes or shoes and food at times. I have to help my mother by selling these boiled eggs,” said Nyasha.

“I wish I could go to school with other children of my age but my mother cannot afford money to buy me a uniform, books and to pay for my school fees since we already find it very difficult to survive” she added.

Malnutrition and stunted growth have also become more common due to an absence of basic healthy food among the majority of the families, according to the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) 2014-2020 strategy.