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Chitungwiza council threatens to shut down charity feeding kitchen

By Mutsa Makuvaza

THE Chitungwiza Municipality has threatened to shut down a feeding kitchen in the town’s Seke Unit A suburb which has been feeding hundreds of hungry children during the Covid-19 lockdown, saying it does not meet minimum council standards.

Chitungwiza woman Samantha Murozoki  made international news headlines last month after she started a feeding kitchen with her own meagre resources and some support from well-wishers to feed hungry children in the suburb whose parents cannot feed them during the lockdown period.

Hundreds of children brave the chilly mornings to queue for a plate of porridge, with makeshift masks covering their faces, and Samantha has not failed to dish them some warm food into whatever plastic tub, plate, tin cup – or even ripped-off corner of a cardboard box – is presented to her.

The queues have become a common sight in Seke Unit A, that Samantha has had her charitable work featured on international media.

Murozoki shields her eyes from the sun as she inspects the queue outside her home. PHOTO: Guardian

All she has is a makeshift stove, a couple of large pots and a few cooking utensils.

The mother of two has won the respect of thousands who pass by her kitchen daily and is gathering volunteers who help her keep track of the children. A team of women serve and wash up the utensils.

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None of the children have been turned away. However, there is risk that the children will wake up one day to find the kitchen razed down as the Chitungwiza Municipality says it does not meet council’s minimum standards.

A letter dated 20th May and signed by one T R Mukomondera, the town’s Environmental Health Officer, warns Samantha to immediately cease operations at her kitchen located at 20926 Unit A, Seke.

The council says her feeding programme has not been approved by council and must shut down.

Samantha, who studied law, told the Zimbabwe Voice that she was only doing the Lord’s work of feeding and loving her neighbours, most of whom go to sleep on empty stomachs.

Samantha Murozoki started the food programme after learning that neighbours were going hungry under lockdown. PHOTO: Guardian

“The feeding programme is driven by compassion, nothing else. It’s all about doing the Lord’s work.

“I came up with the idea after a neighbour told me a sad incident when her family had gone to bed hungry as work and informal trade has dried up under the lockdown,” she says.

The thought that the kitchen would one day be shut down troubled her, as she has come to see daily the smiles that brighten up the little faces she feeds.

A queue forms outside Samantha Murozoki’s home in Chitungwiza. The families who come have had their income cut off by the closure of all informal markets. PHOTO: Guardian

“We hope the council will spare us and help keep the good work going instead of shutting it down,” Samantha says.

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Chitungwiza town council, however, seems to have had a change of heart and backed off from the threats.

“We are engaging her with a view to resolve the matter,” a town council official said, preferring anonymity. “Council understands and appreciates the good work done at the kitchen, but as a matter of procedure, we had to write the letter.

“We do not want to set up a precedence where council by-laws are disregarded in the spirit of communal good.”

Samantha says she started with a 2kg packet of rice and 500g of beans. The number of people needing food has doubled since then, and so have well-wishers, although more needs to be done.

“It’s not something that I had planned for,” she says.

She still needs all the help she can get. At times, food supplies may appear to get overwhelmed by the hungry stomachs and mouths chattering outside her premises.

She has at times sold some of her personal possessions to get more food stocks. – Zimbabwe Voice

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