Harare, Zimbabwe was one of the best planned cities in Africa. That was in 70s and early 80s before former President Robert Mugabe started his program of land redistribution targeting white settlers. Formerly known as Salisbury, the city of Harare had been meticulously planned and built to perfection by African standards. With wide clean streets and high rise buildings, it became one of the most vibrant metropolis in Southern Africa.
The city had a booming trade, factories and European architecture. Sometimes referred as ‘the city in the sun” Harare had abundant public spaces and beautiful greenery in most of it’s expansive landscape that is mainly a plateau. When the Mugabe administration embarked on the controversial land reforms which targeted white farmers the economy of the country started feeling the pinch. Soon, the city’s economy too was affected. Large tracts of land and modern agriculture that was formerly dominated by whites was taken over by Africans. The country which was famous for its modern agriculture could no longer support it’s food needs, let alone satisfying the export market. The high quality diary products and cattle farming that had become synonymous with Zimbabwe were almost no more.
The once beautiful city of Harare is grappling with poor maintenance of infrastructure, lack of water and electricity in most parts and inadequate supply of most goods. Hopefully, the city of Harare shall rise again to reclaim it’s lost glory, but this may take some time given that the national economy of Zimbabwe is recovering at a snail’s pace. Maybe, it was a miscalculation on the part of Mugabe to implement radical reforms which inadvertently altered the chemistry and status of both the country and it’s once glorious city. Would you rather have a great city mainly run by minority non indigenous people or a run down town where the locals control their own affairs. Isn’t it better for Africa to have cities that are well run by foreigners than have poverty stricken urban agglomerations whose growths are as chaotic as they are unpredictable? This is the question that the advent of colonialism placed on the table of African governments and their people and non satisfactorily.