The Sunday News
Qinisani Qali Ndlovu
The mention of Makokoba is met by an air of rich history, myths and folklore, here is a suburb that bred arts, political leaders and sports personalities, who went on to reach dizzy heights within and across the borders of Zimbabwe.
It is a melting pot of political revolutions that spearheaded colonial settler resistance and the epitome of black perseverance.
Our fore fathers surely would weep at the sight of current state of infrastructure in Makokoba, housing in particular, leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many, a constant reminder of the effects of colonialism on Zimbabwe and her people.
The housing crisis in Bulawayo has its roots firmly entrenched in the 1931 Land Apportionment Act, which was a tool used to segregate blacks on the basis of land. This led to natives eventually taking up arms in protest of the asset that gave them life. Without land one has no housing, food and social security.
To further compound the misery of the black man, the colonial settler went on to enact nuggets of legislation, whose sole aim was to further expose the vulnerabilities attached to lack of land ownership.
A deeper analysis of apartheid reveals a near devilish system that was well thought out, implemented and sustained with maximum precision, hoodwinking even the so-called clever blacks. The wheels of injustice had begun turning by the time Bulawayo, was slowly claiming her place as the industrial hub of Southern Africa.
Average Chigwenya mentions that high industrialisation of Bulawayo led to an influx of people into urban areas. However, this is not the only reason, Busani Mpofu in his 2010 thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, adds that the second world war equally contributed to the influx of people into urban areas.
A jog of the memory in European History will reveal that unemployed able-bodied Africans were recruited to fight in the frontlines of World War Two, this led to many blacks trekking to Bulawayo in search of employment. The colonial rulers further exacerbated the situation by turning blacks in reserves into cheap labour forcing many to flee to the city in search of better wages.
The white industrialists simply tinkered with the demand and supply dynamics created by their industries; cheap labour (supply) was available but needed a “push” in the “right” direction to quench the demand thirst created by the rapid industrialisation of Bulawayo.
In a bid to control and manipulate the influx of blacks into urban areas, the colonialist enforced laws that required employers to house natives, which violated all the facets of human existence, natives were subjected to degrading check-ups and those who were found to have venereal diseases or found to be unfit to live with a Whiteman were sent to live in alternative accommodation leading to the formation of hostels and at times living quarters in the very industries the natives worked in.
Makokoba township was therefore seen as a place that would house the urban labour force that worked for the colonialists. What the colonial ruler did not envisage was the magnitude of the influx, which exerted pressure on infrastructure such as water and sewer. Instead of attracting the native reserves population, the growth of Bulawayo pulled people as far as Northern Rhodesia as well as Nyasaland which are (South Africa, Zambia and Malawi) respectively, Mpofu (2010).
It has to be noted that the rural to urban migration was not as a result of pull factors only, but the push factors amongst them eviction of natives from white owned farms left dozens of natives without livelihoods. The effects of the attractive wages offered in cities began to be felt in Makokoba and surrounding areas such as Iminyela and Mabutweni. In dwelling on the identity of Makokoba, Mpofu (2010) documents the vernacular names that these rural migrants used to identify one another.
The older generation will be familiar with terms like “amapayinela” (Pioneers) which his research labels as the first group to arrive in Bulawayo. The groups that trekked to Bulawayo in the 1940s and 1950s were said to be omafikizolo (new arrivals). Although the settler regime had enacted laws against bringing wives to hostels and townships, some defiant natives sneaked in their wives and thus gave birth to a generation born in the city “amabhon’lokishini”.
This began to shape the very identity of Makokoba and other black townships.
What was evident was overcrowding and the lackadaisical racial regulation of rural urban migrants by the white colonialists. The gravity of colonial injustices in as far as housing provisions are concerned are laid bare in excerpts extracted from Mpofu (2010) citing Terence Ranger which read as follows:
“When I walked round the Bulawayo Location with a town councillor shortly after I had become Minister of Native Affairs, I saw a few nice houses and I saw many not too nice houses and I said to the town councillor: ‘When are you going to build some more of these modern houses and get rid of these filthy places’”, and he said: “When the natives drink more beer.”- Mcintrye.
This period coincided with a shift in the consciousness of the natives, strikes, movements and some bickering became a common feature. Busani Mpofu citing Ranger, further notes that the then Minister of Native Affairs lamented that:
“I have the feeling that the matter of native housing is going to advance pretty rapidly in the near future”.
True to his word, the pressure yielded and forced the colonial government to enact the Native (Urban Areas) Accommodation and Registration Act. N(UA) ARA, this legislation allowed for urban councils to provide housing for natives. This followed the appointment of Dr HE Ashton, and led to the local council providing African Housing.
The council went on to build what was termed family accommodation in the form of Sidojiwe, Vundu and Burombo township flats. Modern day Makokoba, and the above-named flats are in a state of disrepair and are labelled as the epicentre of disease outbreaks by public health specialists, due to the unsanitary conditions that have their roots in the colonial era.
Having painted a historic picture of colonial Makokoba, the article aims in part to answer the question why is Makokoba experiencing urban decline. In part 2 of the series the writer explores the decline of black townships with focus on Makokoba.
Qinisani Ndlovu is a built environment professional at Copperfield Construction, and an Urban Management research consultant at Heinhoff Africa. He holds a BSc degree in Development studies, BSc Postgraduate Special Honours in Urban Management Studies all from (Lupane State University) and a Master of Philosophy Business Leadership and Management in Emerging Economies degree from the University of Johannesburg Business School.
He can be contacted on [email protected] ll