South Africa: Little Zimbabwe Community continues to fight fiercely

In this small informal settlement in Marabastad, Pretoria, mostly undocumented immigrants live in leaky huts without sanitary facilities, water or electricity. But they say they are glad to be left alone

Around 16 immigrant families with 35 children have been living in the informal settlement of Little Zimbabwe in Pretoria for years.

They lack basic services and their poorly built huts are leaking.

The residents are mostly undocumented and have been in South Africa for many years.

They survive from patchwork and begging.

No toilets, no electricity, no water – in the informal settlement “Little Zimbabwe” in the lively business district of Marabastad, Pretoria, not much has changed since GroundUp last reported on living conditions here in 2019.

The 16 or so families, all from Zimbabwe, with more than 35 children, are grateful to be left alone. Metro law enforcement agencies haven’t demolished their shacks in over a year. Taxi drivers who operate in the area and accuse local residents of dealing drugs like Nyaope have also left them alone.

Elizabeth Musungabe, 26, recalled an attack in September 2019 when taxi drivers set fire to their shacks and locked a seven-month-old baby in them. “We thought he was going to die, but we were able to save him,” she says, pointing to a boy who is now two and a half years old.

Most of the residents are undocumented and many have been in South Africa for at least a decade. Their huts are made of asbestos sheets, boards, fabrics, plastic sheeting and tent material. One-room huts are overcrowded and divided into two parts for separated families. They sleep on makeshift beds. They cook on an open fire. Nearby bushes serve as a toilet.

Many of the children are not registered. “We had documents that we received at birth in a hospital, but we lost them when they burned down our huts. Some even lost their asylum documents, ”Precious Twariki told GroundUp.

Eight of the children are of school age. “In the past four children in the settlement attended a primary school in the city. We paid R400 for them and they were allowed to attend without papers because the owner of the school is Nigerian. Now they stopped because the fees went up. They want us to pay R800 a month. It’s a private school, “says Melody Zimuto.

There are currently four teenagers attending school in Atteridgeville, Pretoria West.

Musungabe moved to the settlement in 2014. She has no papers and is struggling to find work. Originally from Harare, she first went to Limpopo in 2012 to look for a job.

“I survive by asking for donations and cleaning people’s clothes. Our husbands go out every day to look for recycled materials, so we rely on that too,” she says.

Musunggabe has four children and is expecting their fifth.

Tariro Musa from Rusape City went to Johannesburg in 2010 to live with her aunt. She moved to the settlement earlier this year after losing her job as a housekeeper in an Arcadia hotel. She had taken maternity leave, but when she returned to work, she was informed that her position was filled.

“I couldn’t afford the rent. I also ask patches of apartments nearby,” she says. She survived for a while by washing cars. Now she asks passers-by and shopkeepers in town for food.

Melody Zimuto was one of the first to build a hut in the settlement. She says that they used to have to share the room with Nyaope smokers on one side.

“When it rained, we slept under the veranda of the shops in Marabastad,” she says.

In 2011 she moved to Little Zimbabwe. “We moved here when they closed the Schubart building. We paid rent to some people. I think they hijacked the apartments because we don’t know who they belong to. Alternative contact point because most of us are poor, “says Zimuto.

Sign up for the free AllAfrica newsletter

Get the latest news from Africa delivered to your inbox


Almost finished…

We need to confirm your email address.

To complete the process, please follow the instructions in the email we just sent you.


There was a problem processing your submission. Please try again later.

Zimuto came to South Africa in 2008 to support her blind mother. She survives from patchwork jobs and sometimes begs for food in the city. She has four children.

Caroline Chinozvana (pictured above) was only 14 years old when she came to South Africa from Harare a decade ago. When she was five, she became an orphan.

She begs for money at the traffic lights and looks for part-time jobs.

Chinozvana says residents without ID have difficulty finding work or access to social assistance programs.

She sleeps with her three children in a small hut on two makeshift beds. When it rains, the huts are leaky. “As adults, we don’t mind, but we do worry about our children,” she says.

Comments are closed.