Precarious possession and political agency on the city edge: partisan citizenship and its discontents in Harare
JoAnn McGregor (University of Sussex)
Kudzai Chatiza (Development Governance Institute)
Paper short abstract:
This paper argues that the rethinking of urban theory from African cities demands a better understanding of the politics of authority, property and citizenship in newly urbanizing spaces. It explores the case of large new informal settlements in Harare, controlled by the ruling ZANUPF party.
Paper long abstract:
This paper argues that the rethinking of urban theory from African cities demands a better understanding of the politics of authority, property and citizenship in newly urbanizing spaces. We take the case of large new informal settlements in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, originating in land occupations, resettlement projects and housing schemes. In these settlements, the ruling ZANUPF acts as de facto territorial authority and has promoted a view of access to urban land, housing and security as 'gift' conditional on demonstrations of party loyalty. Based on oral histories with residents of the settlements, we shed light on contestation over this notion of partisan citizenship. The paper contributes to broader conversations over citizenship in precarious urban peripheries in Africa and other parts of the global south by highlighting the role of the ruling party as actor shaping political ideas and everyday life on the city's margins. We use the Harare case to caution against celebratory accounts of urban land occupations as resistance. The discussion of historically situated practices to secure entitlements to land, property and security locates these acts within the contours not only of ruling party patronage, but also rights-based urban civic activism and a cross-cutting politics of possession.
Rethinking urban theory from African cities