A mentally challenged man captured seating on a shopping trolly of a leading supermarket in the CBD
The menace posed by violent homeless people suffering from mental illnesses is growing by the day as the streets of Masvingo continue to fall to vagrants while the seemingly oblivious authorities turn a blind eye.
Besides the usual uneasiness of using streets that are overwhelmed by mentally-unstable persons who are not supposed to be on the streets in the first place, many people say they feel there is enough reasons to fear that public safety and decency is now in jeopardy.
Nasty incidences involving homeless people with mental health problems are being reported often and there are growing calls for the city council, social welfare department, Ministry of Health or whoever is responsible to take those people off the streets and house them in places where they can be properly cared for.
A vicious mentally-challenged man ran amok at the corner of Robert Mugabe Road and Josiah Tongogara Avenue on the afternoon of April 11, attacking car windscreens with his bare hands.
He attacked two vehicles belonging to Rufaro High School and TellZim News, inflicting massive damage on the windscreens and leaving their drivers shaken.
The vehicle owners were also presented with an unwelcome gift in the form of unexpected huge repair bills plus all the inconveniences involved.
Before members of the public could catch him, the man, who was dressed in raged filthy clothes, had also attacked and injured a female motorist with a blow which left the hapless victim with a heavily swollen eye.
The man went on to cause more commotion at Masvingo Central Police Station where he had been handed over for detention by pulling down and breaking a portrait of President Robert Mugabe while acting violently against police officers.
While the offence could have earned any other person some little prison time, the man most probably got away with it due to his insanity.
Few weeks later, the city’s environmental health officer Zavapano Munganasa, while approaching the traffic lights at the intersection of Josiah Tongogara Avenue and Robert Mugabe Road in the evening, got a rude awakening after his vehicle was attacked by another mentally-unstable man who was armed with catapults.
Disturbed, completely disoriented and unaware of what had hit his car, Munganasa instinctively sped away thinking he was about to be hijacked and reported the matter at the police station.
He only became calmer after other motorists who were driving behind him and had noticed the incident told him it was a catapult attack by a homeless mentally-unstable man.
These are just few recorded encounters involving people with mental health issues but are definitely not the only ones.
While society is expected to show empathy for the less fortunate especially those living with any form of illness, people who spoke to TellZim News said it becomes an enormous challenge when those people are left to disturb the peace and security of members of the public.
“They definitely are not to blame for their circumstances and where they find themselves having to live. Rather, it is our uncaring leaders who deserve all the censure for allowing our streets to deteriorate to these levels.
“This problem in not exclusively synonymous with Masvingo but is just a reflection of what is happening in every urban area of the country. It’s bad because there is so much money in this country but it’s not being used to create a decent country; it’s all being guzzled by selfish politicians,” said one small business owner.
In their daily forage for food, mentally-challenged people living on the streets have no better option than the rubbish bins that they trash and leave the garbage scattered. This not only presents a public health problem but undoes ongoing efforts to ensure tidier streets and pavements as well as a litter-free environment.
A shop owner in town explained how she often has to use her own vehicle and labour to clear away litter in front of the shop whenever a nearby bin is overturned and trashed by mentally-unstable homeless people who will be scavenging for food.
“It is a big challenge for us because we cannot remove these people from the pavements ourselves but we are forced to clean up the mess that comes with their presence on the streets. We are incurring extra costs because we have to offload the bin every evening ourselves rather than to wait for the scheduled council service. If we don’t do that, we will wake up tomorrow with heaps of stinky rubbish on our doorstep,” said the shop owner.
Female shoppers also told TellZim News that they feel particularly vulnerable sharing the passages with homeless people with mental health problems.
“What if they grab hold of you and try to rape you? That would be dreadful, just a forced touch from them is too horrible to contemplate. Our children are even more vulnerable,” said one woman who works in town.
When asked on what authorities were doing to lessen the challenge posed by aggressive mentally-challenged people on the streets, City of Masvingo Town Clerk Adolf Gusha said council alone had no capacity to take them off the streets.
“We don’t have a place where we can take them to but we will liaise with the Ministry of Health who are responsible for that. We acknowledge that there is a problem at hand and we would like to find a way to effectively deal with the problem,” said Gusha.
Homeless females suffering from mental illness are particularly more vulnerable than their male counterparts, not only to the usual severe weather conditions especially in winter, but to sexual perverts, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
They are also subject to public ridicule as happened recently in Hellet Street when one mentally-unstable woman stripped naked and was mobbed by a crowd of senseless mischief-makers who jeered at her.
With a ceaselessly difficult economy and a largely distressed population with no peace of mind whatsoever, many people feel it is time government invests more in mental health institutions and all the necessary work that is required for the successful rehabilitation of all homeless victims lest the streets become more unsafe.
Few available shelters like Ngomahuru are acutely underfunded and are unable to cope with the few inmates they have and can therefore not accommodate every homeless mentally-unstable person on the streets.local