By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
ZIMBABWE has celebrated its 38th independence anniversary, an age that would be regarded as only a year short of adulthood in socio-political terms if it were a human being.
There has been a great deal of social, cultural and political development since the attainment of independence on April 18 1980, following a protracted armed struggle.
From 1980 up to 2018, the country has experienced a massive increase of educational institutions that include 11 universities, among which are three privately-run ones. There has also been a mushrooming of Christian churches, the majority of which are pentecostal, a cultural development that has obviously been seized by some unscrupulous individuals to enrich themselves.
The political landscape has had a similar phenomenon and has resulted in a large number of political organisations that have led to about 124 people vying for the presidential seat in this year’s projected national harmonised elections.
The country’s economic arena has been greatly affected by the indigenisation of land ownership, the very core objective of the armed liberation struggle; nyika ndeyedu, ilizwe ngelethu, and also by a range of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe at the behest of the UK and US governments.
A very important social occurrence that is featuring most visibly throughout Zimbabwe is the fast growth of all urban centres since independence. That is, among other things, an inevitable result of the rural-to-urban migration.
Another cause of that development has been insecurity which characterised some rural areas during past elections. A large number of people drifted from those areas to urban centres where there is relative security in numbers and also in families living in close proximity to one another.
Employment opportunities, including self-employment, are found much more in urban centres than in rural areas, a factor that greatly contributes to the country’s rural-to-urban migration.
Some urban municipal councils have been under the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) for five or 10 years; the MDC–T being one of the new post-independence political organisations that will, again, participate in the coming elections.
A most unfortunate development in virtually every Zimbabwean urban centre is the accumulation of garbage on the streets and sanitary lanes.
That anti-social occurrence is more pronounced in some centres than others, and a glaring example is Harare where heaps of garbage is a terrible eyesore, particularly at the Mbare suburb main bus terminus.
Harare City Council has been run by the MDC–T for 10 or more years, and so has been several other municipal councils. It is, obviously only fair, if not natural, to blame that party for the messy condition in which those urban centres are today.
It is of course, a fact that causes of that situation vary and at some places, cholera or typhoid has occurred
Some of the causes lie in the national Government environment and others in that of local municipal councils.
Garbage accumulation is increased or lessened by a local centre’s population factor — the larger the centre’s population, the larger the centre’s garbage quantity.
An urban centre’s population reflects the country’s national population growth policy as well as its socio-economic development programme.
A national Government with a clearly pronounced population growth (birth control) policy such as that of China, and a defined rural socio-economic development programme is able to control the rural-to-urban centre drift.
Meanwhile, an urban municipal authority that closely analyses its area’s demographic characteristics will not be overwhelmed by garbage accumulation nor by a broken down sewerage system.
The larger the number of applications for accommodation, the larger is the urban centre’s population.
Population increase can be caused by one or all of the following: Higher birth than death rate; immigration from either other urban centres such as closing down neighbouring mining communities, or from displaced rural communities, or from outside the country’s borders as is the case in all countries that share borders with Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or currently with Somalia or with Southern Sudan.
It can also be caused by investment that creates a large number of employment and business opportunities in urban centres.
Deliberate Government pro-immigration policies also results in population increase. In each of all those circumstances, local authorities need to increase accommodation, water and energy supplies, health and sports facilities and services.
Researchers on urbanisation have been carried out in various parts of the world, but the most significant was a 20-year-long one by a French scholar, Professor Jean Gottmann.
He focused his research on the United States Atlantic Ocean coastal region where he found that whereas in 1790, the vast majority of people lived in rural areas, by 1990, three quarters (75 percent) of the people of that region were urban dwellers.
In 1961, Professor Gottmann coined the word megalopolis, a reference to urban centres with more than one million residents each.
Harare city is a megalopolis if we borrow Professor Gottmann’s terminology.
Bulawayo is likely to become the second megalopolis of Zimbabwe in another 10 years, at least, or 20 years, at most.
What emerged as probably the most important aspect of Professor Gottmann’s conclusions was that, for any megalopolis to be livable, water supply infrastructure must not only be adequate but needs to be durable and reliable.
That is what the city of Harare and other growing urban centres have to bear in mind. People who wish to settle in towns need to be highly sensitised that urban life is more expensive than rural existence, hence the material comforts in urban areas. They must be prepared to pay for those comforts.
The Harare City Council and other local authorities facing a similar garbage disposal predicament could be well advised to improve their revenue collection systems, and then hire, by tender, private business companies to remove their garbage, leaving the incineration (or whatever else to destroy that garbage) to the local authorities as that particular stage may require professional handling.
The political aspect of this sensitive matter requires councillors whose primary wish is to serve their respective communities, and certainly not to earn a living as would seem to be the case with some MDC-T councillors.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell
0734 328 136 or through email. firstname.lastname@example.org