More than 500 families in a suburb near Bulawayo had a forgettable start to this year’s wet season.
An overnight hailstorm left them homeless and more than 10 of them hospitalised after they sustained injuries as their homes caved in on them.
A new house seldom collapses into a mound of rubble during a storm like they did at Emthunzini, Umguza District, on Wednesday night. Only poorly built houses succumb in that way.
We were saddened seeing images of the destroyed homes yesterday. Hawkflight Construction Company, which constructed the houses was, since the disaster, assisting affected families by relocating them to unoccupied houses under its housing project.
“The winds were very strong. It started off with loud noises coming from outside, before we could even understand what was happening our door started making cracking sounds. It flung out and as we scurried for safety, the roof was blown off. At that moment we did not know what to do. The walls started shaking and bricks started falling. The house was collapsing,” said a woman who identified herself as MaTshuma.
Another resident, Mr Luckson Ncube, accused Hawkflight of building sub-standards houses for them.
“Will the construction company own up to this?” he wondered.
The Civil Protection Unit yesterday announced that around 2 000 people are in need of emergency food aid and shelter after 60 percent of the around 900 houses built by Hawkflight were destroyed.
We regret that so many people have been rendered homeless as a result of clearly poor workmanship by the contractor. In addition to losing their homes, they lost food, furniture, clothing and so on.
Hawkflight’s director Mr Mngane Ncube admitted that there was poor workmanship on the housing project and pledged to assist the homeless.
“As the project owners we are still shocked about this disaster,” he said.
“We are investigating the situation to find the best way of addressing the situation. We believe our clients deserve the best from us. We are concerned that the company we subcontracted to construct the houses could have short changed us by not building proper houses. We also want to assure our clients that we will be with them in this time of distress.”
We note his admission that shoddy work was done on the project but we are unhappy with his attempt to apportion blame on the so-called sub-contractor, if any was ever engaged for the project.
If indeed the contractor delivered a poor project, the big question is how Hawkflight failed to identify the weaknesses in the Emthunzini structures before handing them over to buyers. Does the company not inspect the houses it builds from time to time to ensure that they are structurally sound? We doubt that the company does not inspect the houses it constructs but perhaps overlooks certain things to immediately move on, chasing after the dollar.
The chairperson of the CPU, Mr Tapiwa Zivovoyi, told us that up to 60 percent of the fairly new 900 housing units built by Hawkflight in the suburb were affected. This works out to around 540 homes. Surely it cannot be an accident that so many houses, built by one company in the same area under the same project can collapse in one night. It is simply because the company delivered a dog’s breakfast.
We find this unacceptable because our people suffer immensely to be able to save up enough money to acquire a home. It involves foregoing good food, good clothing and so on, for one to be able to raise funds to buy a house. After enduring all these in such a difficult economy, one’s happiness and sense of achievement gets dashed all of a sudden.
Just like that?
We believe we are speaking on behalf of the affected families in demanding that Hawkflight must actually build all the collapsed homes from the ground up for no extra cost to the occupants. And the reconstruction must be done in a short space of time. It is not the buyers’ fault that the contractor delivered properties that aren’t able to withstand the elements.
In the meantime, we hope that well-wishers would provide the assistance that the 2 000 people in Emthunzini need. They need tents for shelter, they need food, they need clothing and medication. Tents are of great importance since we are already in the rainy season.