These days Epworth is far cry from the Mission farm it once was. Even though people it is still the butt of many a joke with people often associating it with crime, that Epworth is long gone and with each passing day the urban satellite is changing for the better. Already it has some of the best urban roads in Zimbabwe as the Epworth Local Board has worked tirelessly to pave most of the roads in the area. Now the board and residents’ efforts are about to pay off as Epworth is on the verge of becoming the fifth largest city in Zimbabwe. It will be bigger than Masvingo and Gweru!
The people there are under no illusions. They know some of the problems they have to solve before they can become a modern town. To their credit, they have been solving some of these. The biggest issue has been that of unplanned growth and the layout of stands. A lot of the neighbourhoods in Epworth just sprouted organically with little official input. Some houses are banded together leaving no room for roads, pipes or other essential services to pass through. This is often true in an area called Magada (the gardens) which used to be gardening land for the original Epworth areas who live in an area called Chinamano or Maseko.
The Epworth Local Board and the central government have teamed up to solve this issue as well as the issue of unestablished boundaries. Surveyors and other experts are currently demarcating stands and mapping them. Those who live in areas earmarked for roads are being moved to alternative stands usually close by. Those with larger stands are also having their stands cut so that stands will be roughly the same size. Most demarcated stands are around 250-300 square metres in size which will allow for the building of medium-built houses. So why would residents accept this? Well, title deeds and recognition from both the Local Board and government. The government and Local Board will issue those who have been recognised as the owners of the stands with title deeds.
Title deeds give value to the land as it means that those living on the stands can now apply for bank loans and other funding which they can use to upgrade their houses. That’s the other hurdle that is being tackled. Prior to the formalisation of Epworth, a lot of people just built houses without council approval. A lot of these structures do not meet council requirements and will have to be either torn down or renovated. Making Epworth and city and issuing title deeds facilitates this process.
Epworth already has Glenwood High-Density suburb as a rubric to work with. If you stand in the midst of Glenwood suburb and the gentrified parts of Overspill suburb you will not even realise you are in Epworth. The houses there and the layout of Glenwood rivals suburbs like Aspendale in terms of scale and execution. The houses have electricity and a number even have Liquid Intelligent LTE (WibroniX). All Epworth has to do is replicate the scale of Glenwood and maybe they will wash away the stigma of being a squatter camp.
In the meantime, Epworth will be a city soon stigma or no stigma.