How a hospital in Zimbabwe has been turned into living quarters, church
Years ago, the place — Torwood Hospital — was a bustling health centre serving Redcliff, a town located some 234 kilometres southwest of Harare and 22 kilometres from the Midlands city of Kwekwe.
But the hospital has undergone an unusual transformation. Wards and offices have been turned into living quarters and the accommodation space is being rented out.
Its porch, once a fine work of architecture with beautiful colourful flowers, is now covered by weeds. Windows, broken over the years, hang precariously on rusty frames.
Even the popular Pentecostal churches have found shelter here. They can be heard in booming public address system, singing, and shouting in reckless abandon.
“There are churches who use the premises on Sundays,” says Herbert Moyo, a tenant at what used to be a well-run hospital, now a bustling residential area.
Outside the hospital, a pharmacy has now been transformed into a carpentry workshop, where a banner inscription, Furniture Shop hangs.
“I have been here since last year (2021) in June; I make various types of furniture from wardrobes to beds,” says Elvis Chabata, the pharmacy’s new occupant.
The remnant of the hospital is a mortuary, now run by First Funeral Assurance, while everything else resembles something that a health facility does not represent.
Residents here explain why the once bustling health centre now looks like a common compound. are clear on why the hospital was shut down.
It is linked to the demise of Ziscosteel, once an intergrated steel-making giant, looted to a shell by ruling oligarchs.
Ziscosteel was the bedrock of Redcliff and, upon its demise, everything around it crumbled.
“Before Ziscosteel closed down, everything was flowing quite well,” said Munyaradzi Munikwa, councillor for ward 2 in Torwood, Kwekwe.
“We had several hospitals. There also used to be more medical centres, many of which have closed due to poor administration,” he said.
Several attempts to resurrect Ziscosteel have failed as government continues to insist that there is a little life left in the now defunct steel manufacturer.
While government insists $300 million had been secured to revamp Ziscosteel, little on the ground shows that such quantum investment has been injected into the moribund company.
Old patients who were once treated at Torwood hospital, are shocked each time they pass by the ghost health facility.
Patients are now being directed to Kwekwe General Hospital from various council polyclinics like the nearby Torwood Polyclinic.
The 22-kilometre journey to Kwekwe General Hospital is a perilous one, as the area is known for machete-wielding gangs who often rob and even kill travellers.
Even the standards of living have deteriorated in Redcliff, with families failing to put food on the table. Many here relied on Ziscosteel for survival.
Ziscosteel workers received free medical care here but since the demise of the hospital, they must scrounge for health care.
Hospital bills are beyond the reach of most residents, many who are now unemployed, surviving on vending to eke a living.
Wilbert Mushakanhu sells scrap metal. He had to shelve his educational ambitions so he could raise money to survive.
“I cannot even raise two dollars a single day. The little I get is consumed by food and other basic commodities,” says Mushakanhu as he shovels through a knoll of clanging plastic and metal tins.
The hospital’s demise is a tip of the iceberg. The whole Redcliff service system is crumbling and, in many cases, non-functional.
One of the town’s entertainment landmarks, Torwood Stadium, has lost its former glory. This was the home to a well-funded Ziscosteel Football Club, once a competitive outfit on the local football scene.
At other leisure areas like parks, tufted grass grows from the parched earth.
This is the story of Torwood, a ghost town left to ruins.