Join us
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) welcome sign

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us

The city

Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe, a former settler colony that gained independence in 1980.  The city has a long history of labour migration from neighbouring countries particularly Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia as well as from the countryside. It is a city that is divided in terms of wealth and has suffered dramatic impoverishment through two decades of political-economic turmoil from 2000. The northern parts of the city are more affluent and include the former ‘white’ suburbs, which are home to the country’s elite.  The southern part of the city is high density and includes the former African townships, as well as some new middle class developments.  Informal settlements have expanded dramatically since 2000.

The communities

The three settlements of Hopley, Hatcliffe Extension and Epworth Ward 7 are found on the edges of Harare.  They have all grown informally over the last decade.  Hopley and Hatcliffe Extension began as transit camps for displaced people whose homes were demolished and were then resettled by the state.  Epworth ward 7 originated through land invasions and informal allocations.  They are associated with lack of basic services, poverty and have been sites of elevated political violence. Shelters are mostly constructed from mud bricks, wood and plastic, though some families have built more substantial homes.  Residents lack formal jobs and most make a living by vending. Tuckshops selling a variety of products and services line the main streets, and wells are used for water. Schools and health centres have been set up in some of the communities by the residents, with the help of donors.

Drivers of migration

Harare attracts rural migrants looking for jobs, though unemployment is very high as the county has experienced economic crisis, deindustrialisation and decline.  But the city has also been affected by forced displacements, provoked by land occupations, and the mass urban demolitions of 2005, as well as by peri-urban land invasions and state resettlement.  The past demolitions hang heavily over people’s lives as they fear a recurrence and lack tenure security.