Looking Back: Salisbury faces African housing crisis as industrialisation picks up

The Rhodesia Herald, 14 August 1956

THE industrial development expected to stem from Kariba is likely to present Salisbury with a major African housing problem, the municipal director of native administration, Colonel GH Hartley, told the Rhodesian Herald yesterday.

Col Hartley said in an interview that although the council was gradually reducing the backlog of Africans still in need of homes, a process aided by the government projects such as the Highfield scheme, there was “no cause for complacency” with Kariba in the offing.

“The expected increase in development is bound to lead to a big increase in the number of African workers,” he said, “with a resultant demand for accommodation.

“That is why it is very necessary to catch up on present demand before 1961 so that we are better able to cope with the increase.”

At present, the council needs about 9 000 additional single and married units to meet current demand, 2 500 married couples and nearly 2 000 single Africans are on the waiting list, plus an additional 4 300 living in temporary accommodation who must be moved.

In addition to this, the number of Africans in employment is increasing at the rate of about 2 000 a year.

To cope with the demand, work will start soon on the new African township planned for Crowborough, which covers over 2 000 acres, almost double the existing municipal native areas, but will not be fully developed for some years.

There are two main problems facing the council, the most important being finance.

Loan conditions are limiting spending on new African housing to about 250 000 pounds a year, which if used to building low-cost hostels will provide accommodation for about 3 000.


Industrialisation in the 1950s led to rural-urban migration, resulting in many people coming to towns in search for employment. The high influx of workers led to a high demand for accommodation.

The same challenges that faced council of meeting the demands for accommodation for people on the waiting list back then is still the same 64 years later. Many people are still on the waiting list with no prospect of ever getting to own their own homes.

The right to housing is covered in a number of international instruments of which Zimbabwe is a signatory. One of them is the UN-Habitat. The Istanbul Agreement and Habitat Agenda of 1996 identifies the steps required by governments to “promote, protect and ensure the full progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing.”

The right to housing is no longer limited to a person’s marital status and neither is it confined to employed and/or married males. Women married or single are now owners in their own right.

The rural-urban migration has not only created housing challenges,  leading to long waiting lists, but the past few years have seen an emergence of corrupt activities through land barons who steal council land and sell to desperate home seekers.

The demand for housing has  resulted in the destruction of wetlands in most urban areas.

As urban populations grow, so too the demand for decent social services: water and sanitation, health care and recreational facilities, schools, and more.

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