Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Housing Cooperatives and the Politics of Local Organization and Representation in Peri-Urban Harare, Zimbabwe

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Housing Cooperatives and the Politics of Local Organization and Representation in Peri-Urban Harare, Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


More than one million people in Zimbabwe constitute the country's urban housing backlog as of 2004. (1) The government launched Operation Murambatsvina (Operation Restore Order) in 2005, to get rid of illegal structures that had mushroomed in urban areas. (2) The government action reduced the amount of illegal housing stock but increased the housing backlog. This exercise made the Zimbabwe African National Union government (ZANU PF) unpopular at home and abroad. To regain support, the government subsequently responded with Operation Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle (Operation Live Well), by constructing housing units to accommodate the victims of Operation Murambatsvina. (3) The latter initiative failed to close the gap, and with the economic crisis peaking in 2008, the housing backlog grew rapidly.

Due to the government's failure to deliver urban public housing, the demand for low-cost housing in the country's peri-urban areas increased. Housing cooperatives grew rapidly in the peri-urban areas as government acquired land near urban areas to resettle those affected by Operation Murambatsvina. Resettling the victims of Operation Murambatsvina on unserviced peri-urban land seemed to be the right thing to do. These housing cooperatives have their identity in the ruling party of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe African National Union. This explains the politics of patronage and clientelism.

Some housing cooperatives like Nehanda in Dzivaresekwa (Harare) have made major strides and have been celebrated as success stories. However, a number of these still face challenges in the provision of water, sanitation and road infrastructure. The City of Harare is yet to incorporate most of the farms that house these settlements and therefore they are inadequately prepared for urban development. Because the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) "nationalized" most rural land, peri-urban settlements are mostly on state-owned land.

This paper attempts to answer why these cooperative schemes have been resurgent and whether they are sustainable by examining five sites in peri-urban Harare, namely Whitecliffe to the west of the city, Hatcliffe to the north, Caledonia to the east, and Southlea Park and Hopley in Harare South. We argue that political identity, networks, and participation have been at the core of these housing cooperatives as they sought to secure tenure in the peri-urban areas by enhancing their citizenship rights.

Research Design and Methodology

We conducted this study against the background that the Zimbabwe state has struggled, over the years, to create better and habitable sites of human settlements. We conducted a household survey between February 2011 and June 2012. Our data collection took full cognizance of the fact that communities in Zimbabwe were polarized along political lines. The survey had 402 respondents and included both closed- and open-ended questions. The survey was administered in the peri-urban sites of Whitecliffe (100), Hatcliffe (100), Caledonia, (100), and Southlea Park and Hopley (102). Random sampling avoided bias and enhanced representativeness. We analyzed the quantitative data using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). In addition to the survey, we interviewed community leaders, officials from government departments like the Department of Physical Planning (DPP), war veterans, and selected members of community in the five research sites. (4) We then made use of textual and content analysis to analyze this qualitative data.

Urbanization, Cooperatives and Informal institutions: A Review of the Theoretical Literature

Urbanization, defined as "the proportion of a country's population living in urban settlements," has been an increasing trend in developing countries, especially since the 1950s. (5) Africa has witnessed "runaway urbanization," which has created immense gaps between citizen demand for services and the supply of infrastructure, including housing. …

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