THE picture of young boys in torn shorts and dirty shirts playing a plastic ball on what used to be a well-maintained tennis court speaks of the levels of poverty that now haunt the once rich and proud home of Zimbabwe’s iron and steel makers — Torwood.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
A spitting distance from the tennis court-cum-football ground is a shopping centre where a group of former Ziscosteel workers, with nothing else to do, while up their time sipping opaque beer.
Ben Muruvi, who for 35 years dedicated his life to working for the now defunct Ziscosteel, struggles to open his eyes; the effects of exposure to furnace heat and light while working for the government-controlled company.
In a pained, soft voice, he struggles to explain how he has managed to keep his senses together and remain alive.
Having been forced into retirement in 2010, Muruvi, like many of his peers, is still waiting for his pension and outstanding salaries.
“I have not been paid my pension since leaving work in 2010 — not even a dollar,” he said.
“I have seven children, one of whom is at university and I failed to pay his fees last semester. I owe the university $1 000 but I don’t have it, so he is sitting at home.
“I get $60 per month as pension from NSSA but my rentals alone cost $80.”
Muruvi’s situation is not isolated. it is the common dilemma in this small Midlands mining town where hundreds of children are being turned away from school for failure to pay school fees.
Many former Ziscosteel workers have turned to illegal activities to sustain themselves.
They are now into fish poaching, illegal gold mining, prostitution and even theft.
Danisa Ncube says he now survives on selling fish. The fishmonger says besides the small business which gives him very little, he spends most of his time drinking opaque beer.
This has become the only pastime for most fathers escaping unmanageable family demands at home.
Ncube is owed nine years’ salary by Ziscosteel. He and fellow ex-workers are demanding close to $60 million from their former employer. Recently they were given a paltry 40% of a month’s salary.
“I managed to pay $150 for my child in Grade One, but I still owe Redcliff council $800 in rates,” he said.
Meanwhile, the town has reported rising prostitution owing to the hardships.
Young girls whose families are hard pressed for money have reportedly taken to selling their bodies.
The few civil servants in the town, considered to be the only steady income earners, are their main targets.
As the sun sets, young girls in skimpy dresses are seen leaving their homes heading to nearby Kwekwe town where they engage in commercial sex to earn a living.
Deputy mayor Vincent Masiiwa, also a former Ziscosteel employee, lamented the moral decay in Redcliff.
“Homes have broken down owing to high levels of poverty as the dignity of fatherhood and the institute of marriage is eroded,” he said.
The town’s dilapidated infrastructure tells a story of its own.
Birds have come to roost in the community halls that were well-maintained by Ian Smith’s government while the once state-of-the-art private hospital in the town has long been closed.
The once popular Ziscosteel stadium has gone the same way too.
Redcliff council revenues have dwindled from a high of $600 000 a month to just $20 000.