So many things have gone so wrong with the former “Sunshine City” of Harare with crumbling infrastructure, mounds of uncollected garbage and a tumult of disorder within the CBD.
For all that, things could still get worse.
Right in the middle of the central business district (CBD), in the First Street Mall — that formerly exclusive shopping hub — a woman has set up a makeshift home at the corner of First Street and George Silundika Avenue, where she blends with the eyesore environment of informal cellphone dealers who clog the pavements and block passers-by with their cardboard box stalls.
Yet, a makeshift home, complete with an open fire where a woman cooks her meals, washes and lines laundry among other household banalities, is bound to catch the eye.
The woman’s name is Lydia Ndlovu.
She is aged 40.
She has become a wonderment with passers-by, vendors and businesses around, with the question as to whether she is a mental case or an ordinary woman who has little options.
When Ndlovu — who grew up in Nkulumane, Bulawayo — got married, she thought she would raise her family like any other normal person.
Unforeseen occurrences saw her and her daughter sleeping on a street corner instead of a warm home as Ndlovu had grown up imagining.
“I was born and bred in Nkhulumane. Most of my relatives and family members are based in Bulawayo,” she said.
Like most citizens, Ndlovu attended school up to the Ordinary Level, though she failed to prove her competency.
“I went to school in Nkulumane, where I did my primary and secondary education, but I did not come out well.
“I only passed English, Geography and Commerce of the seven subjects I had registered for and that was the end of my educational journey,” relates Ndlovu.
Despite having failed in all other subjects, the woman’s tongue rolled flexibly in English as she narrated her life history, which substantiated her love for the language as a subject when she was at school.
Her entry into a young marriage did not live up to the promise.
“I got married at 19 to Mike Ncube in Bulawayo before we relocated to Harare,” she said.
“My husband had another marriage before me, but the ex-wife was finding it hard to move on,” said Ndlovu.
According to Ndlovu, the ex-wife was trying to disrupt their young love.
As a bird in love, Ncube opted to guard her nest with moderation for she had less anticipation of any horrifying act from a woman of her same nature.
Ndlovu claims that acts by her adversary brought her to the situation she is in.
“After a confrontation with my husband’s ex-wife, I started experiencing a lot of drama in my life. Men could attack me and my husband during broad daylight, but they would be invisible to the public. I could also experience weird dreams every time I slept, with several attacks from strangers while she would be watching and laughing,” she said.
Her belief is that her challenges are spiritual in nature.
“The attacks only occurred when we were home, so we decided to shift from where we were renting to another place, thinking it would make a change, but we anticipated wrongly because it never stopped till we opted to relocate to Harare,” she narrated.
Despite being taunted by unseen elements, Ndlovu has seen a liberator out of the Harare CBD for she regained her peace out on the streets.
“Our stepping in Harare brought us peace for we were living on streets. We chose the streets since the attacks usually occurred indoors, hence it became safer outdoors,” she said.
They perform all household chores within the confines of their makeshift cardboard home.
“We wash under the closure of these cardboard boxes, we source our water from burst pipes. We even cook for ourselves here. Truly life is not different for us here,” Ndlovu said.
Ndlovu fears for her two-year-old daughter sometimes when the weather is hectic, especially when it rains.
The church plays a part in ensuring their sustenance.
“We joined the Universal Church of Kingdom Of God later, while seeking for assistance for we gathered that only God’s intervention could save us from the spiritual atrocities. My husband was given shelter at the church, but they could not admit me since only men stay at the church,” she explained.
Ndlovu says the flame between her and her husband has not died.
The couple finds time for each other during the day, but hardly has room to fulfil their conjugal rights and that seems to give less worries to Ndlovu for their safety is her priority.
She is now permanently settled at corner First Street and George Silundika Avenue, while her husband stays at the church, where they get assistance in terms of food, clothing and spiritual help through prayers mainly from Bishop Justice.
“I have time with my husband during the day and I do not mind the fact that we have less time for privacy because what is important is to survive,” she said.
She has since acclimatised to her selected spot.
“First Street is all I have for a home and with the assistance from Universal Church pastors, I am comfortably settled at this place,” she added.
Apart from the help from church, the woman tries to work for her living through selling used plastic bottles to companies for recycling at Mbare Musika. She roves around the city, picking used plastic bottles from refuse for resale at $1 per bag.
“To earn a living, I go around collecting used plastic bottles from garbage and sell to companies for recycling at Mbare Musika, where I normally get $3 a day, which can sustain my day, aided by the assistance from the church.”
With reports of rape cases in the city, Ndlovu has never experienced a challenge of that nature.
“I haven’t encountered any threats from anyone since I settled here and most of the people around respect me, with some going as far as looking after my properties when I am out for work,” Ndlovu said smiling.
She considers her fellow street dwellers as family.
“I appreciate the love they are showing me for my life has been made easier through their efforts,” appreciated Ndlovu.
Ndlovu now hopes to put a proper roof over a daughter’s head as she believes that she has found a way to respond to the spiritual attacks which have been plaguing her.
However, the council has been compassionate towards her despite the unpleasant appearance it is rendering to the city well known as the Sunshine City .
“Her issue needs the interference of the Welfare. The council could move her off the streets, but considering that she is in need, we appeal for the Welfare to intervene and offer her shelter,” said Harare City Council corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme.
Vendors operating at that place have leniently accepted her and seem to enjoy her presence.
“She is one real good woman who minds her own business, funny to be with and we hope she will get the help that she needs, said Passmore Dambire, a cellphone vendor along First Street.”
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