Skip to main content

About this book

This interdisciplinary book provides a cross-sectoral and multi-dimensional exploration and assessment of the urban geography perspectives in Zimbabwe. Drawing on work from different disciplines, the book not only contributes to academia but also seeks to inform urban policy with the view of contributing to the national aspirations of Zimbabwe attaining middle-income status by 2030. Adopting a multi-dimensional assessment that transcends disciplines such as urban and regional planning, human and physical geography, urban governance, political science, economics and development studies, the book provides a background for co-production concerning urban development in the Global South.
The book contributes into its analysis of the institutional and legislative framework that relates to the urban geography of Zimbabwe, as these are responsible for the evolution of the urban system in the country. The connections among different sectors and issues such as environment, economy, politics and the wider objectives of the SDGs, especially goal 11 aspiring to create sustainable communities by 2030, are explored. The success stories relating to urban geography in Zimbabwe are identified together with the best possible practices that may inform urban planning, policy and management.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction to the Urban Geography Scape of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a dynamic country that has undergone several socio-economic and political changes over the last four decades. The urban areas have been significantly transformed as a result of these changes which is the focus of this book that focuses on the urban geography of Zimbabwe. Specifically, the post-independence context is considered where the various issues pertaining to the evolution, development and planning of the cities are explored. The chapter thus introduces and provides a background of the post-independence socio-economic and political context of urban Zimbabwe. This background context is given in relation to the postcolonial theory which is the lens through which the book has been developed. The paradigms and perspectives of urban geography for Zimbabwe are spelt out followed by the structure of the book which provides a roadmap of the book.
Abraham R. Matamanda, Verna Nel, Innocent Chirisa

Chapter 2. Social Justice in Spatial Governance

Spatial governance pertains to the planning and management of activities in space, with the primary purpose of ensuring that the activities and development support and improves the sustainability of the urban system. Key considerations of sustainability are the health of the broader socio-ecological system and that of the people who live and work within it. Sadly, there are many spatial governance or development control approaches that cater only for one section of the population and ignore or harass other groups whose way of life and livelihoods do not conform to their vision. This chapter examines whether the spatial governance system is used to improve the lives and livelihoods of the poor by embracing informality and concentrating on controlling only the most critical activities that affect the health and safety of residents within the socio-ecological system. However, our findings revealed high levels of injustice, particularly to those who are considered dissidents or stand in the way of realising the image that the municipal and national government wishes to project to the world.
Verna Nel, Abraham R. Matamanda, Innocent Chirisa

Chapter 3. Urban Planning and Policy in Zimbabwe: Change with Continuity

The purpose of this chapter is to diagnose the relationship between the planning of urban areas and the policies on the ground concerning Zimbabwe, a country that has gone through a full cycle of policies—colonial and postcolonial, capitalism and socialism, and chaotic and orderly. The urban–regional space is one that stresses the interconnections between rural space that largely constitutes the hinterland and the urban cores; hence, core–periphery interactions. Seen in the light of these symbiotic relations, this chapter studies the colonial ideology introduced in the country in 1890, which defined rural areas as predominantly occupied by the majority of black African populations serving as labour reserves on land that the capitalist society relied on for workers on its farms, mines and urban areas. The black government after 1980, has always tried to paint a picture of rural areas that are more populous than urban areas for political and election purposes. In addition to political marginalisation, however, the major towns and cities are facing increasing difficulties as the shrinking economy over the years, with limited employment and a fragile taxation base, has rendered planning a useless tool in the hands of a weak state. If the planning is to meet the twenty-first-century demands in Zimbabwe, the policy environment and goals must become clearer, more specific and pragmatic than now.
Gift Mhlanga, Innocent Chirisa, Verna Nel

Chapter 4. Studentification and Its Interplay on Urban Form and Urban Policy: Reflection from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

The chapter contributes to the ongoing debates concerning studentification as an emerging urban policy agenda in university cities. On-campus accommodation shortages compel students to find accommodation in the private sector. This chapter explores the opportunities and constraints of off-campus student housing and its influence on the spatial form of urban areas and ultimately urban policy. Adopting a qualitative research approach with Bulawayo as a case study, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis informed the collection of data that was inductively analysed through thematic analysis and content analysis. It emerged that studentification is an emerging trend in urban Zimbabwe and is associated with various challenges and opportunities. However, the existing urban policy framework for Bulawayo does not integrate studentification in the urban fabric. The spatial configuration of the city of Bulawayo is therefore compromised due to increasing communal housing amid detached housing, increased rentals and commercialisation of residential properties. Therefore, this chapter provides an insight into this emerging phenomenon of studentification and how it can be used for urban policy reform and decision-making for the development of sustainable urban forms.
Abraham R. Matamanda, Tiisetso Dube, Maléne Campbell

Chapter 5. Urban Governance and the Political Economy of Livelihoods and Poverty in Harare, Zimbabwe

This chapter examines the interface between urban governance and poverty, using the case study of Harare, Zimbabwe. The chapter focuses on the following specific urban policy areas that impact directly on the urban poor: access to land, mechanisms for citizen participation and voice, attitude towards the informal sector, attitude towards informal housing and regulatory environment. The chapter argues that urban governance (laws, policies and administrative practices) either positively or negatively impact the lives and livelihoods of the poor. Overall, the urban governance frameworks of Harare remain largely ‘poor-unfriendly’. The urban development aspirations, such as the drive towards a ‘world-class city’ are at variance with the livelihoods of thousands of the urban poor, the majority of whom engage in informal street trading. In Harare, the urban poor have vulnerable tenure insecurities, which exposes them to evictions and displacements, disrupting their livelihoods. The urban poor in Harare is also alienated from decision-making processes such as budget formulation. Without an active voice in urban governance, the needs of the poor in Harare remain marginal. Urban governance frameworks in Harare need to be rethought, so that they become responsive to the needs of the poor, especially those living and working on the ‘urban margins’.
Elmond Bandauko, Tafadzwa Mutambisi, Percy Toriro, Innocent Chirisa

Chapter 6. (Un)Healthy Cities: Reflections on Urban Public Health in Poor Neighbourhoods

Health is a critical indicator of human well-being because an ailing population cannot spur socio-economic development of a community. As high population densities allow the spread of infectious diseases, cities were historically unhealthy places, only able to maintain their populations through in-migration. The provision of clean water and sound sanitation changed the situation dramatically, enabling the growth of large urban areas. However, where basic services such as water, sanitation, and stormwater drainage are neglected, the situation can rapidly deteriorate. The prevailing patterns of urbanisation in Zimbabwe expose urbanites to numerous infectious diseases such as typhoid, cholera, influenza, and zoonotic diseases and sexually transmitted diseases. Based on a mix of desktop and empirical research from Harare, this chapter maps and characterises the public health problems that are increasingly overwhelming cities in Zimbabwe. Cities in Zimbabwe are experiencing degradation of natural environments, poorly built environments with unsafe drinking water, sanitation and waste management, all arising from poor urban management and contributing to urban poverty. This chapter therefore argues that despite the vulnerability of these urban areas to health threats, the planning and management of cities seem to marginalise health concerns, rather than integrating them into the land use and urban planning systems.
Abraham R. Matamanda, Verna Nel

Chapter 7. Deviation, Transgression or Digression? The Informal City as the Dominant Phenomenon in the Zimbabwean Urban Economy

This chapter is an attempt to dissect the Zimbabwean urban economy in terms of its normative versus positive developments emerging especially after 1990. There is a general construct that the country had high regard to urban planning and development standards before and immediately after independence. The change in the political economy of the country, particularly after the adoption of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in 1991 and other economic reforms afterwards, ushered in and brought about an imprint of economic informalisation in the urban areas. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a nuanced narrative and discussion of the informal city as a dominant phenomenon of the Zimbabwean urban economy. The work adopted a case study research design and a qualitative methodological approach where a thorough distillation of literature sources relevant to informal city discourses was conducted, and case studies on Zimbabwean cities with respect to all the economic sectors were studied. Case studies were drawn from the various sectors—land and housing, trade and commerce, farming, energy, transport, water and environmental health. The preliminary results revealed that the informal economy has become the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy, contributing not only to household income but also to national economic development. The conclusion is that it is difficult to speak of participation of the generality of the urban dwellers in the urban economy and leave out informality as the defining label and parameter. It is therefore proffered and emphasised that the informal sector plays an incubator role for innovation towards creating an acceptable and appropriate economy in that economic indicators such as the gross domestic product and per capita income are reference points for growth, investment in Zimbabwe and comparable with other countries and nations.
Innocent Chirisa, Trynos Gumbo, Simbarashe Show Mazongonda, Margaret Marewo

Chapter 8. Ecological Risks of the Postcolonial City: Experiences from Harare, Zimbabwe

The human ecosystems model is used to explore the human impact on urban ecosystems in Harare. The chapter explores several questions: What are the urban ecological risks in the postcolonial city? How do residents perceive urban ecosystems? How do politics and urban governance systems exist to regulate or manage the relationships between humans and urban ecosystems? The chapter reveals that urban ecosystems are complex and fragile spaces that face multiple stressors associated with increasing urbanisation. The nature and characteristics of the urbanisation process have resulted in degradation, downsizing or loss of open spaces and protected areas such as wetlands and public parks. Land and water resources are increasingly polluted due to the dumping of solid waste and the run-off of chemicals and fertilisers from urban agriculture. The continued degradation of the environment is deeply disturbing and challenges the notion of stewardship of the environment where communities value ecosystem services and, hence, act as good stewards of their environment. Furthermore, political ecology features in the urban ecology literature and influences environmental sustainability together with unclear and overlapping statutes and governing institutions, or gross neglect of the legislation on the urban environment.
Abraham R. Matamanda, Verna Nel, Lucia Leboto-Khetsi

Chapter 9. Managing Urban Crime and Insecurity in Zimbabwe

This chapter examines the role of urban planning and design in managing crime and insecurity. The chapter further addresses the question: How can urban crime and insecurity be managed through urban planning and design in Zimbabwe’s postcolonial era, which is characterised by an exponential urban population increase? Informed by the Defensible Space theory and the theory of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), the study adopted the pragmatist research paradigm and the mixed methods approach with questionnaires, interviews, observations and document analysis as the instruments of data collection. Data was gathered from residents of Hatcliffe suburb in Harare, which is among the neighbourhoods characterised by a high prevalence of crime, with the help of key informants to get insight into the types and nature of crimes and the role of urban planning and design in managing crime and insecurity. The key findings were that crime is prevalent in certain spots in the neighbourhood that provide conducive environments for crime to occur, which then increases insecurity. The recommendations are that disciplines for urban planning and design should play a more central role in the management of places to make them safer and less conducive to criminal activities.
Jeofrey Matai, Shamiso H. Mafuku, Willoughby Zimunya

Chapter 10. More Than Urban Agriculture: A Case for Planning for Urban Food Security in Harare, Zimbabwe

Urban food security is a growing concern in many cities across the world due to the increasing global challenge to feed the world. This concern assumes increased prominence in the fast-growing cities of the Global South where most of the new urbanisation is taking place. As many cities in the Global North adopt a raft of measures to ensure their cities are food secure, little is happening in cities of the Global South. The few efforts taking place do not always take a holistic approach to urban food security. In many cities, there is a conflation of urban food security with urban agriculture. Officials in the public and non-governmental organisation sectors take urban agriculture to be the most important, if not the only strategy to combat hunger in cities. This chapter challenges the notion of urban agriculture as a panacea to urban food security on its own. Through examining literature on what strategies cities are adopting to address food security and through interviews with key informants, the chapter established that approaches to food security are narrow-minded and misplaced. Officials also display indifference to comprehensive planning for food. A new paradigm shift that takes a food systems approach is recommended.
Percy Toriro

Chapter 11. Urban Development Management in Light of the Risks and Disasters Caused by Climate Change

This chapter proffers a prognosis of Zimbabwe’s future in dealing with urban development management amid climate change. The tragic impacts and apparent enormity of risks and disasters induced by floods, drought and cyclones have caused many damages in most urban centres around the country. In effect, infrastructure and social systems as well as damage to the environment have been significant. The chapter deals with thematic content analysis, with particular reference to Zimbabwean urban hierarchy of city, municipality, and town growth points. The chapter acknowledges that the growing recognition of natural disaster risk as a development issue, calls for the need for conscious effort on development guidelines supporting greening of the environment. This chapter points to the broadening of urban planning practices and tools that effectively address mainstream disaster risk management in urban development. Undoubtedly, an integrated framework for urban development management in Zimbabwe ought to accommodate a wide range of concepts, strategies as well as models of climate change, together with the supporting policy implementation modalities.
Innocent Chirisa, Thomas Karakadzai

Chapter 12. Public Parks and Leisure in the Post-independence Context of Bulawayo City

Public parks are an important asset in the promotion of urban public life and in particular human leisure. They are an engine for inclusivity, sustainability, city image building and marketing. However, there has been a realisation that public parks are deteriorating in terms of both quality and quantity. On the other hand, there is a dearth of literature on public space in Zimbabwe, in particular public parks. Based on the case of Bulawayo city, this chapter documents the current state of its two major public parks and identifies challenges, opportunities and prospects for sustainable urban living. In this regard, the study found that the state of the public parks in Bulawayo is worse than it was in the pre-independence era and is thus a displeasure to the users. The study confirms that public parks can be harnessed to bring sustainability in cities and that the leisure perspective to public parks provides a window that can link the design and management of the physical environment in line with the users’ aspirations.
Nicholas Muleya

Chapter 13. Urban Land Markets

Urban land markets play an important regulatory and development function in the efficient and effective access, use and sustainable management of land and property markets. Efficient commodification of urban land markets underpins inclusive and progressive urban human settlement functioning. However, inefficient urban land markets perpetrate suboptimal land and property market shifts and changes that encourage speculation, landholding, fragmentation and splintering of urban land markets, whether for commercial, industrial, residential or recreational purposes. This chapter makes use of the complex dynamic systems approach to unpack the narrative of urban land markets and performance in Zimbabwe from 1990 to 2020. The lessons from the review act as a benchmark for infusing new insights on how postcolonial Zimbabwe can utilise both formal and informal urban land markets in transforming and transitioning towards sustainable human settlements. The results indicate how formal and informal urban land markets can be managed towards sustainable human settlements. Furthermore, the chapter illustrates and advances urban land market transitions and an innovative framework that explains how the contemporary urban land market forces of demand and supply interact in Zimbabwe. The way the current land market struggle is unfolding in Zimbabwe is reflected by the emergence of new housing standards, products, technologies, formats and geographical areas.
James Chakwizira

Chapter 14. The Political Economy of Urban Informal Settlements in Zimbabwe

Research in the Global South reveals the limitations of sustainability frameworks for understanding urban informal settlements. These frameworks seek to address increasing informality. The narrow focus of these frameworks on informal settlements and their depoliticised definition of sustainability overlook the political dimensions of urban informality. Through an analytical lens of the political economy, this chapter seeks to explain the persistence of informal settlements in Zimbabwe. Using a case study approach, we draw upon academic literature, recent empirical studies, project experiences, and interviews in doing a critical analysis of urban informal settlements. We argue for a shift from a narrow to a broader view of urban informal settlements, such as the outcome of rapid urbanisation, poor economic performance, and the urbanisation of poverty. In that sense, informal settlements need to be understood in the broader context of changing urban politics and policies, economic and social forces that influence their development. Only through the political economy approach and its extensions, can we realise the limitations placed upon households’ efforts to improve their shelter. This chapter illustrates how informal settlements are shaped by the interaction of economic interests and political considerations in a postcolonial state.
Charles Chavunduka, Marilyn Chaonwa-Gaza

Chapter 15. Putting Together the Broken Pieces: Rewiring the Urban Geography of Zimbabwe

This chapter synthesizes the issues discussed in the preceding chapters in which the various authors have provided a discussion on the perspectives and paradigms of the country’s urban geography through the postcolonial lens. Specifically, the chapter does not provide solutions to solve the maladies that are currently bedeviling the towns and cities in Zimbabwe. Rather, the work is provocative as it discusses the ‘taken for granted’ issues and helps to raise awareness regarding the living conditions, especially of the urban poor. The chapter concludes that the urban geography in Zimbabwe is characterized by rapid urbanization that is breeding informality and opening wide gaps of inequality as the urban poor are marginalized and forced into ‘makeshift urbanisation’ and where the notion of stewardship is neglected as citizens seek survival strategies that are contrary to the notions of sustainability. Moreover, it is also revealed that there are marked politics of difference and increasing interference of the central government and the ruling ZANU-PF party in local affairs. This situation depicts a divergence from governance to government which may help to explain the proliferating government rot, embezzlement of public funds, and lack of basic services in many poor neighbourhoods. Implications for sustainable urban governance and planning are provided which recognize the complexity of the urban spaces in Zimbabwe and the need for a paradigm shift of modernism and western-oriented systems to locally based approaches to plan and govern the towns and cities.
Verna Nel, Abraham R. Matamanda, Innocent Chirisa
Additional information