LIKE most cities and towns in the country, Bulawayo is witnessing an increase in the number of destitute whites who are living on the streets due to various challenges which include homelessness, alcoholism and poverty.
The most affected are pensioners and former white farmers who were driven off their properties during the country’s violent land reforms.
Some of the destitute whites are being fed by local church organisations while some survive through begging.
“I worked for the Zimbabwe National Railways (NRZ) for more than 30 years as a boiler maker before retiring in 2006,” said a white beggar who only identified himself as Jimmy.
“My entire pension and other terminal benefits were eroded by inflation. I have lost everything including my house which I acquired during my working days.
“My wife passed away and my only daughter is now based in Australia.”
Jimmy’s only worldly possession is a black bag which contains a blanket, bottles of cheap illicit spirits and cigarettes.
He said he survives through begging and scrounging for food from litter bins at fast food outlets in the city and sleeps along pavements.
Another white beggar who has set his base at the corner of Leopold Takawira and Robert Mugabe said life became unbearable for him in 2003 when his Shangani farm was invaded and taken over by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
“When the farm was taken, a long-time family friend accommodated me and my family at his house in Bulawayo,” said the former commercial farmer who preferred not to be named.
“Our intention was to temporarily stay with the family and move on to our own accommodation after receiving compensation from the government.
“But up to now, despite taking my property and equipment, the government has not paid me a cent.”
The former farmer, along with other destitutes, now survives on daily food rations provided by a local church. His wife is now staying at an old people’s home in the city.
Most of the destitute individuals drown their sorrows in heavy alcohol drinking and smoking.
Recently the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said most former commercial farmers had fallen on hard times.
At one point a former commercial farmer stormed into the union’s offices threatening to shoot himself and his wife because life had become extremely unbearable for them.