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Homeowners on Zimbabwe Wetlands Out of Luck After Floods

Edeline Gweshe is one of the citizens affected by floods after building on waterlands in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Edeline Gweshe, 62, scoops water into a bucket and pours it outside her home. Most of her goods are now on top of bricks in her house since water is seeping in and is now above her toes.

“I am not happy staying in this place from the first. But I don’t [have] money to go anywhere,” Gweshe said. “They said there is no other place. This is the only vacant [place] we have got. So, I did not have other options.”

Gweshe said she bought this piece of land on which to build her home 10 years ago from a person she calls a “land baron.” That’s the term for criminals who hoodwink desperate home seekers, falsely claiming they own a piece of land and selling it to the unsuspecting.

The land Gweshe purchased is wetland that often becomes flooded. Now, she is one of hundreds of people in Chitungwiza, 40 kilometers southeast of Harare, whose homes are under water.

The floods prompted United Nations aid agencies to move in to avert a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases. The usual water sources, open wells, are flooded and likely contaminated.

Christopher Ngwerume is an emergency specialist from UNICEF Zimbabwe.

“Government will be looking more into medium- to long term for these affected populations," Ngwerume said. "But from our side as the humanitarian actors, we are more concerned about identification of potential evacuation centers and ensuring that those evacuation centers have adequate materials and supplies to be able to support them during time of evacuation.”

After images of flooding houses in Chitungwiza filled social media, officials from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government visited the area.

Among them was July Moyo, the minister of local government. He blamed the affected homeowners for illegally building on wetlands and not following the law.

“If it appears it is a wetland, we have to get clearance ... from the ministry of environment to make sure that we are not building in wetlands," Moyo said. “So, this is totally unusual. It’s not our planning model. That’s why we know that there are corrective measures that have to be taken.”

Destroying “illegal structures” may be among them, the government minister said.

For Edeline Gweshe and others left with uninhabitable homes, it’s still not clear where they will go.

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