Donald Saddam Mushaikwa
During the day, Egodini bus terminus in Bulawayo becomes the hub around which all events evolve. From there, one can get to any part of the city. People rub shoulders and criss-cross on various errands ranging from vending, which has become the main activity in the terminus, touting for prospective passengers, as well as thieving.
The kombi crews are no exception. A kombi trip from any of the suburbs surrounding Bulawayoa��s Central Business District, is surely a gut-wrenching experience. Not only is the ride bumpy due to the nature of the roads and potholes, but when the kombis negotiate curves, stomach contents seem to rise. One can smell alcohol from drivers, who in most instances appear under-aged to drive commuter transport.
To add salt to injury, the seemingly inept drivers play music at disturbingly loud volumes while speeding. They display utter disregard for human life. Whether they care about loss of lives due to impending accidents, one cannot help but wonder. The kombi crews are rude, thug-like, and unmannered, one can argue.
A driver who operates the Mpopoma route, Bheki (27), said he works with a target.
a�?We are given a target on a daily basis so we dona��t have time to spare. If I fail to meet that target my family will starve. I will rush for the queues because we now have too many kombis in the terminus.a�?
To the northern arm of this busy, clamorous, and dirty place lies blocks of residential flats. The flats occupying the space between Egodini terminus and Davis Hall are crammed and overcrowded. They seem to accommodate double their capacity. Flowing or stagnant pools of raw sewage greet you just outside the doorsteps.
A pungent odour pervades the entire surrounding zone. Residents of these dwellings appear used to the stench of the area. They smile, talk, cook, eat and sell food to their customers, without any expression of dissatisfaction.
Pampers, tissues, used condoms and used sanitary pads are dumped everywhere, waiting patiently for city cleaners to collect them.
Imagine toddlers who are bred in this environment; crawling, picking up and eating whatever is within reach!
Getting out of the place towards the east, heaps of decomposing and uncollected garbage lie piled. Vendors sell their wares from clothes, fruits, maize cobs, vegetables, cosmetics. Some hissing, some whistling, some shouting, and some playing melodies to grab the attention of passers-by.
a�?Who do you think would want to live like this? We all aspire to lead better lives but we have no option. I would also want to raise my children differently but things are hard,a�? said Thabiso Moyo (29), a vendor at the terminus.
At one far end, there are communal toilets whose flushing systems have seen better days. The sight of men urinating just on the doorway to avoid the nausea aroused by the odour from the neglected toilets communicates in itself an impending health hazard.
Women, whose toilets are positioned directly opposite mena��s, have aborted the fundamentals of ubuntu as they can squat in the open to relieve themselves.
Flies, perhaps after feasting, pass from these toilets to the foodstuffs sold just an arms-length away. At night the usually dark public toilets are never used. People use the surrounding zone to relieve themselves, the same place which will be covered with fruits and vegetables of all kinds during the day, exposing the public to serious health hazards.
To the south of the terminus are trenches and concrete drainage passages, which stretch along the road to the Mhlahlandela Government Complex. These, however, have been providing shelter to some homeless street kids, who co-habit with lunatics in the same drains.
These vagabonds roam aimlessly from one street to the next and across town in search of food. They survive with nothing but only hope that one day the future may get better for them. They seem not to worry about anything else as long as they are still alive.
B-Metro visited the streets around Egodini and had a conversation with a trio who had just awakened from one of the drains they use as shelter. The eldest, a 14-year-old boy who identified himself only as Clive, who stayed with his two brothers said they came from Zvishavane.
a�?I usually get up early in the morning and wash my face in the drains before I can look for cars to guard,a�? said Clive.
Being awakened by the morning breeze to go into the streets, guarding peoplea��s vehicles to get some money to buy food has become their daily routine.
a�?Ita��s not easy being homeless, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to remain alive. We dona��t have enough blankets and we supplement the tattered ones which we have with cardboards to warm ourselvesa�?.
Another child, Tinei (12), said that they usually spend much of their day in the streets begging. He also added that life has never been easy since the time they came to Bulawayo late last year.
a�?We used to stay with our granny but she is too old and doesna��t like us. We decided to come to town to look after ourselves,a�? he said.
Nonetheless, he concluded that things are a bit better because they can manage to get food and buy some clothes for themselves.