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Urban Poverty Increases in Zimbabwe Cities

According to latest research findings, urban poverty is increasing in Zimbabwe. (File Photo/AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Although prices of basic commodities have remained relatively stable since the adoption of multiple currencies in 2009, a non-governmental organization says more ordinary Zimbabweans in urban areas are failing to make ends meet due to hardships caused mainly by unemployment.

Sixty-three year-old Sphiwe Sibindi, a widow who lives in Gweru’s Mkoba 10 high density suburb, says she sometimes goes for several days without a decent meal.

Sibindi lives with seven children, including her son who has a wife and child.

Although she is grateful for the support that she gets from some of her children, she says the money is not enough for the family’s daily need.

“Life is very difficult for me. In the past I used to go and work on local farms around Gweru. But last year I fell sick and am no longer able to do the menial jobs that used to enable me to earn a living. I am no longer able to buy basic commodities. We sometimes go for more than two days without a decent meal,” she says.

Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT), a non-organisation which focuses on advocating for pro-poor policies, says Sibindi is among many urban dwellers who are increasingly facing hardships.

Through its Poverty Watch Programme, PRFT has been researching on the livelihoods of people in urban areas using what it calls the “Basic Needs Basket” which involves the monitoring of basic commodities required by an average family to live a healthy life.

PRFT, which has carried out such research in the country’s major towns of Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare, recently made a preliminary research in Gweru.

Programmes officer Tafara Chiremba says what has been emerging from their research is that many people are finding it difficult to buy basic commodities and pay their bills including rentals.

Nigel Mangoni of Mkoba One says he worked for a company for 17 years before it folded abruptly in 2011, leaving him and his colleagues in a lurch.

Mangoni, who is married and has two children who are in primary school, agrees that many ordinary people living in urban areas are experiencing difficulties.

“It is difficult to find employment, so in order to be able to take care of my family I have to do some odd jobs … Without doing this my family would die of hunger. What pains me the most is that when the company that I worked for closed down, I never got any benefits. We are not getting any pension,” says Mangoni.

Patience Musambasi is a widow who is in her mid-forties and once worked for various companies for a number of years.

Musambasi quit formal employment and started earning a living through cross-border trading but she also had to abandon it due to ill-health.

Although Musambasi gets a pension and also some income from letting out two-roomed house, she says the money is not enough to take care of her three children and her mother whom she looks after.

“My family’s life is not as good as it used to be because we are no longer getting as much income as we used to. It is difficult to pay fees for my child who is still in school. I had to approach the school authorities so that my child could be supported through the government-backed Basic Education Assistance Module Programme,” says Musambasi.

PRFT was founded in 2007. Besides advocating for pro-poor policies, the organization has also helped some people with grants to start small businesses.

In June this year, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) released a report which showed that 38 per cent of Zimbabweans in urban areas are poor.

Although the country’s economy has recovered from years of decline, the failure of most companies to operate at full capacity and the closure of others is leaving many workers unemployed and ordinary Zimbabweans suffering.