The Cries of Families Left Homeless and Jobless After Demolition

By Habiba Wakio

Moses stood rooted to the ground, his eyes and mouth wide open as he watched the bulldozer bring down his house. He had just returned home from his workplace – the hardware store that has kept him engaged ever since he retired from teaching. Upon getting his pension, he bought that land and began constructing his residential home and hardware, believing that he was making a good investment. Then he took a loan to complete his house and develop his business, mortgaging his piece of land. Since there was a lot of construction taking place in Mavoko, his business was thriving. That enabled him to pay the loan in installments and live a relatively comfortable life. This was home. He had sold part of his ancestral land, which was his inheritance, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. His drooping shoulders, head hanging low, and dampening eyes were a reflection of the profound hopelessness he was experiencing. He wanted to shout at the people who were busy destroying his years’ hard work, efforts and sacrifice, but words could not come out as his voice was stuck in his throat. Worst of it all, he was unable to save any of his valuable items. The place looked like a dumpster with all the scattered metal around. Some youths kept on collecting the metals for sale. Having being idle for so long, luck seemed to be on their side.

Moses was taken aback by the significant change in the area. Previously, it had been clean and lively, with the existence of houses and business premises – a suburb. It now seemed lifeless. No houses, no schools, no churches, no shopping centers. With the national exams coming up, from where would the candidates from the schools in the area write their exams? Teachers supervising and invigilating exams in the schools in the area could have earned some cash. Sadly, no one was spared. Be it a teacher, a pastor, a hotelier, or a vendor.

This is a nightmare that I am soon going to wake up from, Moses told himself. This cannot be happening. It cannot be real.

The roof fell with a clang, letting Moses know that the demolition was actually happening. He shut his eyes, trying to suppress his emotions.  Although he had lost everything, and there was no compensation, societal expectations dictated that he shouldn’t cry because he is a man. He had to take it all in, but how? The fact that he had bought that land from what he thought were credible people made him believe that he had not been duped. And now this? Had he been too excited to notice any loopholes in the transaction? No way. The bank had let him mortgage his property. Therefore, the title deed could not have been a fake. Who was to blame for that misfortune? The company claiming to own the land had won the court case, confirming that Moses and his neighbors did not have any legal rights over the property.

How could all his efforts go down the drain? Was his ten years’ investment worth nothing? He was now left with neither a place to live nor a means to earn income. The political leaders and well-wishers who wanted to extend their helping hand were denied access to that area. He and his wife stayed out in the cold all night; with no roof over their heads, no mat to sleep on, and no heavy clothes to keep them warm. The two kept turning and tossing.

Days later, Moses and his neighbors made a plea. Having no place to go, it was necessary to fight for their only existing home. They were willing to repurchase the land from the rightful owner. The company agreed and announced the land prices. Getting another loan was out of question. Luckily, the fraudsters involved in selling the land were taken to court. The court ordered them to compensate the victims. Although the money would not be enough to pay for everything they had lost, it was better than nothing.

Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel, Moses’ thought.

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