We have lived in Hatcliffe community since it was established in the late 1980’s. From the very day we got here life has been hard, compounded by many challenges imposed by various macro economic and social factors. In the midst of our struggles we continue to work hard to build our homes and own businesses to ensure that we have a future with our children. In 2000, in the wake of hosting the Common Wealth Head of Government meeting in Harare, government resettled us in an operation called “Murambatsvina” to Churu Farm. Not long after our first displacement the second followed. Later, we were again resettled to Hatcliffe Extension. These displacement exercises, and other minor displacements in between, left us without shelter and social services. In the process we lost the means of our basic livelihood. Coming from different backgrounds we were only united by our plight and hopelessness.

We now find ourselves displaced within our own country! We have received very little assistance by way of shelter, food, clothing or livelihoods from the government. In our plight, a few NGO’s like AFSC, the Dominican Sisters, Silveira House and other partners have been coming to our aid. At first, NGOs assisted by lobbying and advocating for our right to shelter then other social amenities like food, education, hospitals.

The Hatcliffe community is an expanding high density suburb about 25 km out of Harare North District. It is made up of Hatcliffe 1, Hatcliffe Cooperative areas and Hatcliffe Extension community. Each of these is at different development stages. At each stage the Hatcliffe community is faced with a number of challenges: for example; the majority of people in Hatcliffe Extension still live in plastic shacks with no access to water, sanitation, electricity; health and education facilities. Many NGOs are working on relief projects providing the community with nutritional food and only a few are assisting in the construction of houses which we desperately need. It is hard for us to build our own houses because the multiple displacements robbed us of our livelihoods. Services like health are being provided by the Dominican Sisters in Hatcliffe 1 and that is where we access all other services like education for our children. We are in the continual process of lobbying the government for social service delivery and shelter among other things.

Adding to our problem is the divided coordination of activities in our community and NGOs have to work with seven different development committees that are all politically aligned. This situation of polarisation is dominant in Hatcliffe 1 and the cooperatives area, resulting in a lot of gate keeping and exclusion by development committees of other residents from accessing food aid, basic commodities, civic education and livelihoods.

To sensitize our community residents on the need for lobbying and advocacy for better living standards we liaised with NGO’s like Silveira House, AFSC, Zimbabwe Women’s Bureau and other partners who conducted a number of workshops. We were taught integrated approaches of peaceful coexistence and how team work through group formation can promote community development. We have also learnt concepts on how to strengthen our economic capacity through support income generating projects. The programme also facilitated community capacity building activities to enable us to address related social concerns by lobbying and advocating on a wide range of issues concerning service delivery, tenure, economic justice, workspace, social rights, gender etc.

The community capacity building project has managed to bring the different development committees to fight for the same cause together as one in a non-partisan manner. The Hatcliffe Residents Association was born in the last few months out of this initiative and has representatives from the different political party development committees within Hatcliffe. The general assembly is the policy making body that implements its activities thorough an executive committee, elected from among its members. Representation was decided on by the development committees based on political affiliation as well as the area represented within Hatcliffe community. There is fair gender representation and the association will soon start networking with other residents associations from Harare on city wide issues.

Our analytical capacity was enhanced through trainings like ‘Training for Transformation’ workshops for households, which resulted in our first engagement with Harare City Council, the Department of Physical Planning and the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprise and Cooperative Development on workspace. We engaged the City Council to dialogue for improved service delivery in our community. We lobbied for workspace and managed to establish trade groups for businesses like tailoring, carpentry, welding, leather work among others.

We still have a long way to go and we have to increase our efforts. Despite the level of political division and the negative impact this has on community development; we are determined to overcome this negative influence and to focus our attention on things that unite us, rather than things that pull us apart. So far in our struggle we have managed to influence town and country planners on the need to respond to our needs and to revisit planning, law-policy and practice to focus on practical aspects of land-use zoning, layout design, land and space design and allocation as well as general planning practice. All these are affecting development in Hatcliffe area. Now, the Government, Harare City Council and development organizations working in Hatcliffe have expressed their desire to work with people who are united through representative bodies in the form of SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) associations on issues to deal with SME development; and through a residents association on issues relating to community development and coordination.

 We have developed an action plan and have started implementing it. Soon we will elect an executive committee. The association has developed a draft constitution which is now being used in consultation with residents and special interest groups as part of the action plan on mobilization.

We believe that our residents association will continue to unite us and this will remain a source of strength as we champion a new course for Hatcliffe. We believe we have learnt a lot from the different NGO’s that have worked with us thus far. We can say that, our capacities in lobbying and advocacy have been sharpened; we will uphold these virtues as we continue to break new ground for sustainable development in Hatcliffe.

This article was written for the Hatcliffe Residents Association formed through the livelihoods project, by staff of Sylveira House, a partner of AFSC in its Livelihoods Programme, which is funded by EED.