On Thursday 7 June we were joined by three expert speakers to discuss population distribution and migration, the impact of the reconfiguration of the rural economy, and the administration of new settlements; and consider the political and economic implications ahead of elections in 2018. The event also launched our publication “On the periphery: missing urbanisation in Zimbabwe” by Beacon Mbiba.
Dr Beacon Mbiba (School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University)
- The last two decades have seen a proliferation of organisations, institutions and companies researching African urbanisation. There are diverse interpretations of the data, and often people miss something important. That certainly seems to be the case with Zimbabwe. For example, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation asserted that land reform had caused the de-urbanisation seemingly captured in the 2012 census. I was motivated to investigate whether that was actually true.
- There is an epistemological difference between “land reform” and the term ordinary Zimbabweans more commonly use – jambanja. In Shona jambanja means “turning the tables upside down”. Whereas “land reform” is horizontal, apolitical and technical, jambanja is much more nuanced. It denotes chaos with a purpose and is an ongoing process that annihilated traditional norms. Jambanja has become the modus operandi in everyday life and statecraft. “Land reform” implies certainty, but everything in Zimbabwe is temporary, in a state of flux. This is important when analysing urbanisation (or anything else).
- Zimbabwe’s headline census figures recorded a decline in the urbanisation level from 35% to 33% between 2002 and 2012. How we define “urban” impacts the result. By definition, urban areas have a population above 2,500. At the lower end of the spectrum – in many small towns, “growth points” and service centres – rapid urbanisation is taking place. Definitions of urban often refer to settlements with predominantly “non-agricultural economic activities”, but in Zimbabwe smaller urban centres invariably still depend on agriculture.
- There has also been an expansion of peri-urban areas. In 2004, the government enacted a policy that permitted anyone with the necessary capital to develop land. This led to the development of urban settlements on the fringes of rural government areas, on the fringes of existing urban areas; and of sizeable slums and housing developments in rural districts, paying rent to rural councils but receiving no infrastructure in return. Caledonia Farm, to the east of Harare, has a population of more than 100,000. It is an extension of the city, but was still enumerated as part of rural Goromonzi District in the 2012 census. The expansion of peri-urban areas, whose populations are not counted as urban, is very much associated with jambanja and the breakdown of rules regarding land use and urban development planning.
- Statistics have a political use. There is a difference between what economic and housing policymakers focus on, in terms of population statistics. In all urban areas there are a substantial number of residents not counted as urban in the census. In the 2012 census, census boundaries were defined by election boundaries from 2008. This negates the traditional practice of basing election boundaries on census figures, and means the census did not fulfil its intended purpose.
Professor JoAnn McGregor (Department of Human Geography, University of Sussex)
- New urban areas involve diverse authorities. The “Migrants on the Margins” research project I am involved with is focusing on three peri-urban areas in Harare – Epworth, Hopley (in Harare South) and Hatcliffe Extension. These settlements are not being populated by people from rural areas to any significant degree, but by people moving from elsewhere in the city. Many of Harare’s largest peri-urban settlements are on land made available through the land reform programme – mostly state land, but some handed over to the city council – and it’s been settled in a variety of ways: through occupations, state allocations, co-operatives, and through state programmes in the aftermath of Operation Murambatsvina. An array of state and ruling party authorities such as councillors, planners and surveyors, have been allocating land – but not traditional authorities. Even in communal areas, places that are under chiefly authority, land claims and allocations are not framed in the language of tradition. The language is that of opportunism. In the context of Operation Garawadya (“eat first then questions later”), which Mbiba mentions in his publication, villages and village heads have been, and are, selling land opportunistically with the prospect of urbanisation or regularisation encroaching on their territory.
- Governance of peri-urban spaces is the politics of the periphery. These zones and areas on municipal boundaries are often described as “ungoverned spaces” or “no man’s land”. They are also a political resource. Land for housing in Harare has been used by ZANU-PF to encroach on the authority of the city, which is controlled by the opposition. But there is more to it than this binary suggests. Opposition politics is fragmented and complicated. Recently there have been court cases brought against land barons and cooperatives by ministerial and local authorities. They have failed: judges have ruled that it has to be ordinary citizens bringing such cases. But they show how the complexities of national politics are mirrored in peri-urban areas.
- Settlements straddle ministerial boundaries. The ministry of local government is now split, adding further complexity to the politics of peri-urban settlements. The ministry of local government and housing is responsible for urban space and a new ministry of local government is responsible for rural areas. There are a whole range of participants, beyond the land barons and cooperatives, that are seeking to capture the land and rental value of peri-urban land.
- City of Harare perspective. There has been pushback by the city authorities following the formal process of handing over responsibility for peri-urban areas to them. The view is “we don’t want them, they weren’t settled by us, they took the land value from the settlements” and “we’ll take them over when they’ve been serviced’. The Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) is responsible for regularising informal settlements. This is a parastatal that answers to the ministry, not the city authorities. So that’s created a very interesting situation. City councillors are saying “we don’t know what Udcorp is doing”. Udcorp is on the ground, moving from house to house and charging for planning and regularisation services, and that’s a problem for the city council when it tries to collect rates. It is seeking to charge for services in peri-urban settlements where it provided no services, and people are reluctant to pay. As a result, from the city’s point of view the settlements are a drain on their meagre resources.
- Peri-urban settlements are not properly represented. The term “stateless citizens” is evocative of the situation in peri-urban settlements. Certainly citizens are “stateless” in terms of having access to services. There is also insecurity and a lack of political freedom. Formal institutions are either absent or unable to access these places, but people bring their grievances to them all the same. In terms of political representation, citizens either have none because their councillors are in distant rural wards, or they are incorporated in bloated wards the size of small towns. Caledonia does not have a councillor. The huge population of Harare South has one councillor. In the mid-1990s, urban citizenship was extended beyond ratepayers to all residents, but the new reality is not recognised by boundary adjustments that will probably not happen before 2023.
- State-led regularisation of settlements is contentious and fuelling the process it is meant to be halting. The official shift away from large-scale state demolitions is welcome, but now regularisation of homes by Udcorp is the problem for residents. They have already paid land barons or cooperatives to be where they are, now they have to pay Udcorp for regularisation. While regularisation is extremely popular, for obvious reasons, it is also a distant prospect. It is also bringing in its wake an increasing number of land occupations, prompted by speculation that Udcorp might be about to start work in a particular area. The imminent elections are intensifying this process.
Professor Ian Scoones (Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex)
- Significant increase in population in the three small towns that my research has focused on since 2000 – Mvurwi (Mazowe), Chatsworth (Gutu) and Maphisa (Matabeleland). The census shows Mvurwi’s population increased 30% between 2002 and 2012. Following land reform there were obviously major changes in economic activity and settlement in rural areas and these impacted on urban centres nearby. This has gone largely unnoticed and un-researched.
- Business opportunities have increases as a result of land reform. Many larger businesses, white-owned companies, banks and other service industries closed down following land reform. There has also been a significant decline in public services and state investment. But in all three centres there has been a rapid growth in business activity, especially of small enterprises, many of them linked to agriculture. Smallholder tobacco growing has driven this in Mvuwi and Chatsworth, and livestock in Maphisa. The business is highly seasonal, and is seriously affected by the current cash crisis, but there has also been a dramatic shift to e-commerce. This is giving rise to a whole array of what economists call “linkage” and “multiplier” effects, including increasing demand for all sorts of services and supplies.
- People who have not directly benefited from land reform are profiting from its impact on the local economy. In the towns we study there has been a four-fold or five-fold increase in the number of hardware stores, grocery stores, food outlets and butchers. That is not to take a rose-tinted view of this – many of these businesses are informal, fragile and risky forms of economic activity – but it does demonstrate how local economies have been reconfigured by land reform. There is investment by black Zimbabweans, Chinese and Indians in these places, and dynamism.
- There has been a change in patterns of accumulation and the relationship between rural and urban. There has been massive growth of medium- and low-density housing – a big building boom. In Mvurwi, for example, about 2,000 low-density and 750 medium-density stands have been added during the study period, a significant expansion. Many of the investors in these new homes are land reform farmers, people who have been accumulating through agriculture and finding new things to spend their money on. The new landlords are traders and farmers, they are the ones accommodating the teachers and nurses. This is symptomatic of an important change in class relationships.
- Basic services, infrastructure and planning are absent. These expanding urban areas are, as is the case in peri-urban areas, different to how Zimbabweans would have conceived “urban” in the past. This is partly due to the lack of state resources and capacity, but also to confusion around local government and who is responsible for what. There is demand for planning and services and infrastructure. But who is going to provide them? We need to throw out the old models and classifications and generally think differently due to the dramatic reconfiguration of lives and livelihoods that is taking place in Zimbabwe. I think we have to worry a little less about the numbers and planning classifications and consider more seriously what it means to be urban and rural.