Debating the Role of Planning in Zimbabwe's Urban - CiteSeerX

Debating the Role of Planning in Zimbabwe's Urban - CiteSeerX

46(4) 897–922, April 2009 In the Service of Tyranny: Debating the Role of Planning in Zimbabwe’s Urban ‘Clean-up’ Operation Amin Y. Kamete [Paper fir...

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46(4) 897–922, April 2009

In the Service of Tyranny: Debating the Role of Planning in Zimbabwe’s Urban ‘Clean-up’ Operation Amin Y. Kamete [Paper first received, February 2007; in final form, February 2008]

Abstract The paper debates the role of planning in ‘Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order’, Zimbabwe’s 2005 controversial urban clean-up campaign. The discussion critically assesses two perspectives regarding the purported contribution and complicity of planning in what critics perceive to be the machinations of a regime that is internationally viewed as nefarious. This is done, first, by interrogating the role and contribution of planners and planning to the instigation and design of the operation before it was launched and, secondly, by determining the extent to which planners and planning served as the handmaiden of state repression during the operation. After weighing relevant empirical evidence on the culpability of planning, the discussion concludes that, while planning may escape the first charge, it certainly has a case to answer on the second.

Introduction In May 2005, the City of Harare, under the guidance of central government, announced the launching of ‘Operation Murambatsvina/ Restore Order’ (OM/RO). The authorities at both the local and national levels insisted that this was an urban ‘clean-up’ campaign. Murambatsvina (literally, ‘one who rejects filth’) says a lot about the intention, target and character of the operation. The ‘filth’ was closely associated with poor urban-dwellers, their livelihoods and housing. People became

filth if they occupied or used urban spaces in violation of planning and property laws; activities became filth if they happened in undesignated areas; informal business and residential structures were filth because they did not have requisite planning and building permission. From Harare, the operation quickly spread to all urban centres. By the end of July, virtually every urban centre had been emptied of the ‘filth’. The police and regular army, supported by intelligence operatives and youth militia, played a crucial role in the military-style

Amin Y. Kamete is in The Nordic Africa Institute, Research Box 1703, SE-751 47, Uppsala, Sweden. E-mail: [email protected] 0042-0980 Print/1360-063X Online © 2009 Urban Studies Journal Limited DOI: 10.1177/0042098009102134 Downloaded from at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on April 8, 2016



operation. OM/RO involved the eviction of homeless people, loiterers and vendors; the demolition of illegal residential and business structures; and the arrest, detention and relocation of the evictees to ‘holding centres’ for processing (SPT, 2005). Before it was officially suspended towards the end of July, OM/RO had virtually wiped out the urban informal economy and housing. One in six urban-dwellers (700 000) directly lost their homes and/or livelihood sources, while an estimated 46 per cent (2.1 million) were indirectly affected by OM/RO-related adversities such as loss of income and services (Tibaijuka, 2005, p. 33). Such was OM/RO’s suddenness, ferocity, pace and scale of destruction, that Zimbabweans nicknamed it ‘the tsunami’. When the authorities officially announced the launch of OM/RO, they thrust the planning system into the forefront of the campaign, describing it as “a programme to enforce by-laws to stop all forms of illegal activities” (City of Harare, 2005a). They quickly invoked the principal planning legislation (City of Harare, 2005b) and consistently justified the operation in terms of planning. The authorities framed their arguments in such a way that it appeared that ‘planning’ allowed them to do what they did. This paper assesses the role and contribution of planning to the controversial ‘operation’. In this paper, ‘planning’ is the production and ordering of space; it is concerned with “the formulation, content and implementation of spatial polices” (Yiftachel, 2002, p. 535). The ‘planning system’ comprises the technologies (institutional, legal, regulatory, policy, etc.), rationalities, techniques and ideologies that are deployed in the production and ordering of urban space (see Taylor, 1998; Dear, 2000; Yiftachel and Huxley, 2000; Sandercock, 2003). The paper is one of two papers based on the same study. The other paper (Kamete, 2007) interrogates stinging moral and technical criticisms of planners’ attitudes, behaviour

and reaction to OM/RO. The discussion in the present paper complements the other paper by explicitly assessing critical perspectives regarding the contribution and complicity of planning to state repression. It takes a different angle by concentrating not on weighing criticisms on the moral blameworthiness of planners, but on, first, interrogating the role and contribution of planning to the instigation and designing of OM/RO and, secondly, on determining the extent to which planning served the interest of what is commonly regarded as a repressive state during the operation. The rest of the discussion proceeds as follows. After the introduction, I examine planning and its context. This framework provides the lenses through which I scrutinise OM/RO in the rest of the paper. I then provide an overview of the national and urban contexts at the time of the operation. I discuss the socio-political and economic situation including pertinent developments, contestations and tensions in the crisis-ridden southern African country. I then proceed to interrogate critically and to assess the two accusations that together constitute the indictment of planning.

Planning and Social Control Planning is an integral part of the modernist project (Dear, 1986; Beauregard, 1989). Despite numerous attacks on its modernist rationalities, assumptions and technologies (see for example, Yiftachel, 1998), it seems that planning continues to be fixated with the instrumental application of scientific knowledge (Healey, 1997, p. 9) in order to attain and maintain orderly and ordered cities. One of the major driving forces in this quest is the creation of orderly environments that proponents of planned cities have for long believed can enhance living conditions (Fainstein, 2000, p. 464). Planning is still “an ideal of rational social intervention”

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(Marris, 1998, p. 10), a pursuit in which it has been blamed for elevating “spatial determinism”, thereby “privileging spatial forms over social processes” (Harvey, 1997, p. 2). This criticism is important as it suggests that planning has the potential to ignore or override social processes in order to achieve its preferred (physical) spatial order. In nondemocratic states, the potential of violence and repression being used to achieve these ends cannot be ruled out. Not surprisingly, it has been noted that, apart from its celebrated role in promoting capitalist interests (Foglesong, 1986), planning has been used to control and suppress ethnic minorities (Yiftachel, 1993, 2002), to separate races (Mabin and Smit, 1997) and to promote state security (Scott, 1998, p. 61; Reader, 2004, p. 213). Significantly, these repressive projects are not implemented without coercive force and/or overt violence. Scholars such as Yiftachel (1998, 2002) and Flyvbjerg (1996, 1998) have looked beyond the Enlightenment-inspired reformist and progressive pretensions of modernist planning in an attempt to unravel its “more sinister accompanying ‘dark side’” (Yiftachel, 1998, p. 395). They have accomplished this “by exploring its [planning’s] links with state mechanisms of social control and oppression” (Yiftachel, 1998, p. 395; see Flyvbjerg and Richardson, 2002). A look at this ‘dark side’ reveals that the ‘progressive’ and reformist agenda of planning has sometimes been manipulated to repress or control certain groups in society. For example, the “regulation of ‘nuisances’” (Beauregard, 2003, p. 382), a central concern of planning, has been manipulated, whereupon the ‘nuisances’ become things, activities or segments of the population targeted by the authorities because they are seen as standing in the way of preferred urban orders. Whereas under authoritarian regimes this is accomplished through overt force and violence, in democratic societies this has been


accomplished through subtler means such as market regulation (Yiftachel, 2002, p. 537). A favourite target of planning has been informal housing and the informal economy (Tannerfeldt and Ljung, 2006). In their bid to tackle informality and restore order to urban spaces, authorities use or manipulate planning to justify two state-directed activities— namely, eviction and demolition, as well as the attendant violence. The two processes commonly take place simultaneously, although there are cases where one occurs without the other.1 Eviction, defined by the United Nations as the removal of individuals, families or communities from their homes, land or neighbourhoods, against their will, directly or indirectly attributable to the State (United Nations, 1996, p. 47).

has been used by the authorities in many cities of the global South as a way of ‘restoring order’ to or ‘improving’ urban areas. Apart from Zimbabwe’s notorious OM/ RO, some famous cases of eviction and/or demolition include those executed against the barrios of Bogotá, Colombia (Everett, 2001); the squatters of Khartoum, Sudan (Audefroy, 1994); the street vendors of Maseru, Lesotho (Setšabi, 2006); the slums of inner-city Johannesburg, South Africa (du Plessis, 2005) the bastees of Dhaka, Bangladesh; and informal settlements of Port Harcourt, Nigeria (Izeogu, 1993). There is ample empirical evidence showing that “evictions take place in virtually all countries” (du Plessis, 2005, p. 123). According to COHRE (2003, p. 12), between 2001 and 2002 about 6.8 million people were evicted all over the world, while over 6.3 million were under threat due to planned evictions. During that period, Africa reported 4 086 971 evictions; the Americas had 692 390; Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East accounted for 1 787 097; and Europe reported 172 429 evictions (COHRE, 2003, p. 12). Notably, the

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targets of these are often “poor and vulnerable communities living on the edge of legality” (du Plessis, 2005, p. 123). The authorities are not short of justifications for such demolitions and evictions. Many of these justifications, such as improving public health, safety, security, sanitation and environmental protection, have been championed by planning, especially in its ‘physicalist’ form that emphasises physical design (Taylor, 1998, p. 6; see also Keeble, 1952; Yiftachel, 1998). Flyvbjerg (1998) dismisses these justifications as mere ‘rationalisations’. In a way, he is correct. More often than not, the impetus to such ‘redevelopment’, ‘renewal’, ‘urban development’ or ‘cleansing’ is political or social control, promoting the interests of capital, fantasies about attaining the ‘modern’ city, or the desire to impress visitors/dignitaries to international events (du Plessis, 2005; Yiftachel, 1998; Swilling et al., 2002).

The Spatial Context of Planning Modernist normative rationality and assumptions notwithstanding, like all state-directed activities, planning is not independent of the context in which it operates (Blattner, 1995; Flyvbjerg, 2001). Planning is “a product of the society it is called upon to change” (Marris, 1998, p. 10). Context sheds useful light on Zimbabwe’s ‘clean-up’ operation. The government attempted to portray the controversial campaign in the technocratic and ostensibly neutral language of modernist planning. However, a lot of contextual issues were at play in determining, not only the nature of the operation, but also the behaviour of those tasked with implementing it—including planners—and the reaction of those contesting it. For this reason, an adequate critique of the role of planning in OM/ RO needs to take into account two important contextual realities—namely, the national

environment (economic, social and political) and the state of centre–local relations. The National Context

Central to the vision of modernist planning are “principles of decontextualisation, denial of history and everyday life rhythms” (Sandercock, 2003, p. 30). However, despite the technocratic tendency to disconnect planning from its operational environment, the context of planning does matter. Particularly in the global South, planning operates “within a complex and often uncomfortable political and economic context” (Healey, 1997, p. 8). Fully acknowledging these contextual complexities, some alternatives to planning’s much maligned traditional “modernist instrumental rationalism” (Healey, 1997, p. 7), such as communicative and radical planning (see Amin and Thrift, 2002; Sandercock, 2003), explicitly make “both content and context claims” (Forester, 1993, p. 71; original emphasis). The analysis of content and context necessarily includes the important question of geographical scale, taken here to mean the level of geographical resolution at which a given phenomenon is thought of, acted on or studied ... the focal setting at which spatial boundaries are defined for a specific social claim, activity or behaviour (Agnew, 1997, p. 100).

Considering geographical scale enables us to unravel interscalar relations (between different levels of government and governance) and to factor in the implications of national phenomena to the local realities with which urban planning grapples. Public planning is much more than an isolated, specialised technocratic enterprise that goes on in insulated local bureaucracies in some isolated city hall. Some locally situated phenomena sometimes have wider implications; they are conditioned by or respond to stimulus beyond the local confines, thereby meriting

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national or global responses (Herod and Wright, 2002, p. 2). Urban planning is one such activity. In the national context, there are two dimensions that affect planning, directly or indirectly. These are the national situation and national governance. The national situation is constituted by the national economic, social and political conditions. On its own, the national situation is passive—not in the sense of having no effect on planning, but in the sense of not explicitly prescribing specific actions by local government. However, local governance institutions cannot afford to ignore the national situation because, whatever the level of globalisation or localisation, the national arena remains the primary site for “political competition and lobbying” (Short, 1996, p. 88). These political processes have global and local consequences. Hence, although changes in the prevailing national situation will not explicitly and actively demand specific local responses, a prudent local government will not arrange and carry out its affairs in ways that totally disregard national trends. It is these localised responses that partly account for the “contingency of local outcomes” (Harrison, 2003, p. 17) to significant extra-local phenomena. The national situation also plays a critical role in the construction of meaning, identities, perceptions and interpretations. In this case, the situation acts as a background for the interpretation of specific local phenomena and a resource for the construction of meaning in making sense of these phenomena. The components of national governance that shape local planning include the attitude, behaviour and actions of central government in its relationship to local governance institutions. In the West, the nation-state has reportedly retreated (Cox, 2002, p. 86); apparently, it is becoming increasingly less relevant and less potent due in part to “the increasing importance of the global level ...


and the resurgence of the local and regional levels” (Jessop, 2002, p. 466). In most of subSaharan Africa (SSA), there is little evidence of this “decline of nation-states” (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. xi). Here, the “emergence of new protocols of governance ... at the local level” (Stren, 2003, p. 1) does not mean that the nation-state is being increasingly rendered impotent and irrelevant. Particularly in authoritarian states such as Zimbabwe, national sovereignty has not declined (see Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. xii) and central government is far from losing control (Sassen, 1996). In some important aspects, there is hardly any “weakening of the nation as a spatial unit” (Sassen, 2002, p. 1). Decentralisation and globalisation notwithstanding, central government has hardly lost ground in terms of “political controls, state functions, and regulatory functions” (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. xii). Top–down national government and authoritarian governance remain undiluted. Accordingly, even at the most local of geographical scales, planning is more than a localised or local function. Central government is still in the picture. It has a lot of say in—and a lot to do with—the local bureaucratic machinery (see Kirby, 1993; Brenner, 2004), including, and particularly in, matters of planning. Even when elsewhere central government is said to be ‘in retreat’, in SSA the penetration of the centre into local bureaucratic spaces is still a reality and sometimes a necessity. In addition to making planning necessary and possible, central government sets the context and defines the parameters within which local planning practice occurs. This confirms Herod and Wright’s observation that some social actors go about attempting to scale their own activities in ways that allow them to exercise power or that facilitate their denial of power to others (Herod and Wright, 2002, p. 2).

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Marris correctly claims that because planning needs [central] government to authorise, fund and carry out plans ... it [planning] has to help restore the legitimacy of government itself (Marris, 1998, p. 12).

Not surprisingly, municipal bureaucracies can be actively mobilised or conscripted into projects of central government. Although visibly executed at the local level, these projects are conceived and directed at the national level. Goldsmith (1995, p. 228) effectively sums up the significance of extra-local politics to the local by pointing out that the definition of everyday urban life reflects “the processes of politics globally, nationally and locally”. Centre–Local Relations

The tortuous relationship between planners and local politicians has been dissected in some incisive analyses of planning practice, albeit mostly in the context of liberal democracy (see for example, Flyvbjerg, 1998; Hillier, 2002; Watson, 2002). However, the political nature of urban planning is not confined to the activities of planners and how they relate to local political actors, for urban planning has always been implicated in projects of national governments. Although these are conceived at, and directed from, the centre, it is at the local level that they are effectively actualised. For this reason, centre–local relations are an important aid to understanding local planning. Granted, urban planning forms part of the institutional infrastructure of the local authority. It is a bureaucratic function in the service of urban local government. However, like all forms of local government, municipal authorities are creations of the centre, “the lower tier in a hierarchical state system” (Miller, 1994, p. 395). They are beneficiaries of “political decentralisation”, a process that involves the “devolution of powers to representative local councils, each with its separate legal existence” (Tordoff,

1994, p. 555). As an apparatus of central government (see Dear and Clark, 1981), local government operates in an environment whose latitude and limits are set out by central government. It is still part of the institutional apparatus of national government. Not surprisingly, in highly centralised and/or authoritarian states, urban local governments are expected to serve the national interest, having been primarily created to handle issues that the centre cannot handle for practical reasons that include logistics and economy. Here, the downward rescaling of governance, regulation and control, does not in any way disempower the national state (see Swyngedouw, 1996, 2000). In any case, the centre still controls the pulse of events and processes at the local level (see Allen, 2004). The latitude local government has in wielding its institutional infrastructure depends on the degree of local autonomy, which is defined by the nature of centre–local relations. According to Clark (1985), local autonomy can best be evaluated by analysing the degree of immunity and initiative that local government has. Initiative powers relate to “the actions of local governments in carrying out their rightful duties” (Clark, 1984, p. 198). The duties are normally stipulated in statutes that create and govern the formation, existence and operations of urban councils. With respect to planning, in many countries, local government is granted “powers to regulate and legislate with respect to land use and zoning” (Clark, 1984, p. 198). Using these powers of initiation, municipal governments can produce master and local plans that guide spatial development, can make decisions on planning applications and can enforce planning controls. Clark (1984, p. 198) defines immunity as the “power of localities to act without fear of oversight authority of higher tiers of the state”. It is this immunity that allows the lower tiers of government to “act, however they wish within the limits imposed by their

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initiative powers” (Clark, 1984, p. 198). These powers are set out in legislation. In planning, immunity is best exemplified by local government regulating land use without the need for central government to approve or review all local decisions. Because of its poll position in the production, allocation, control and management of land, a key resource, urban planning is one of the activities of local government that are subject to the restrictions and latitude demarcated by the autonomy granted by central government. It is also part of the local bureaucratic machinery that can readily be used to advance the interests of central government.

‘Operation Murambatsvina/ Restore Order’ in Perspective Contextual Background

OM/RO took place against a backdrop of a deteriorating national economy and an increasingly polarised and unstable political environment. These contextual realities are critical to understanding not only OM/RO, but also the putative complicity of planning in the campaign. The operation targeted informal housing and informal businesses (Potts, 2006), for long key preoccupations of urban planning in Zimbabwe (Wekwete, 1988; Potts, 2007). According to critiques, informal housing and the informal economy are a result of perceived inabilities by government to address housing problems, unemployment and the rising cost of living (SPT, 2005). Having—at least nominally— adopted a command-type planned economy at independence in 1980, central government spearheaded the provision of housing and the generation of employment (Kamete, 1998). It also adopted strict oversight of the economy, putting in place a plethora of regulatory and statutory controls governing key social and economic sectors and activities (Wekwete, 1994). Everything seemed to be going on well until the beginning of the 1990s.


National and urban socioeconomic crises. The adoption of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991 brought to the fore economic difficulties that had been brewing for years. Thanks to ESAPinduced liberalisation and deregulation, widespread retrenchments and company closures led to increased unemployment. At the same time, drastic measures to reduce government expenditure, including the removal of subsidies, negatively affected investment in housing. An unprecedented economic crisis, set in motion in 1997 by massive unbudgeted payments to restless liberation war veterans, was worsened by Zimbabwe’s involvement in the 1998–2003 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) war. The situation deteriorated dramatically with the meltdown set off by the controversial radical land redistribution programme that started in February 2000. Not surprisingly, by the time OM/RO was unleashed, Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic fundamentals were all wrong (Bond and Manyanya, 2002). Unemployment was above 70 per cent; inflation was inching towards 200 per cent; and about three-quarters of urban residents did not have a house to their name (Mubvami and Hall, 2000; Gono, 2005a; IMF, 2005; Kamete, 2006a, 2006b). It was the response of urban residents to these maladies that set them on a collision course with the planning system. From the days of the command economy, urban residents had developed ingenious ways to fight homelessness, unemployment and inflation. The solutions lay in informal housing and the informal economy. By 2001, more than a third of Harare’s population, some 500 000 people, were living in backyard shacks erected in violation of environmental sanitation, public health and, above all, planning and building codes (Kamete, 2002). Contrary to popular perceptions, it is not only the unemployed who sought refuge in the informal economy; nor is it those without a house

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to their name who were responsible for all informal housing. Inflation forced many in formal employment to join the informal sector to supplement dwindling real incomes (Kamete, 2004a). Many homeowners built unauthorised extensions to their homes and/or erected outbuildings and backyard shacks for letting out to desperate homeseekers in order either to get or to supplement incomes (see Tipple, 2000). In addition to this informalisation of formal residential areas, informal settlements sprang up in all urban centres. In Harare, some of these settlements—such Porta Farm, Dzivaresekwa Extension and Hatcliffe Extension—were set up by central government as ‘holding centres’ or ‘transitional camps’ for people evicted from other parts of town, mainly Epworth, Mbare and Churu Farm. Such was the influx of people into these areas that government lost control and the transitional camps degenerated into permanent slums that looked more like concentration camps (Kamete, 2002). Political polarisation. While this was unfolding, the political landscape in Zimbabwe began undergoing a radical transformation. Beginning in 2000, the ruling party, ZANUPF, began losing ground in urban centres (Kamete, 2002, 2006c). Harare provided the quintessential tale of ZANU-PF’s persistent urban electoral woes. In February 2000, Harare voters overwhelmingly rejected a controversial ZANU-PF–sponsored constitution in a landmark constitutional referendum. In the June 2000 parliamentary elections, Harare’s electorate, like their urban counterparts throughout the country, rejected the ruling party. All the 19 constituencies returned opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Members of Parliament (MPs). In March 2002, in mayoral and council elections, the electorate stripped ZANU-PF of all vestiges of democratic representation in the city. In a simultaneous presidential

election, the party lost heavily in Harare—this despite all manner of physical, administrative and legal obstacles to frustrate voters (Kamete, 2003). By mid March 2002, ZANU-PF had, to all intents and purposes, become a rural party. Between 2000 and 2005, the MDC ousted ZANU-PF from urban councils and urban parliamentary constituencies in successive general and by-elections. So it was that the city councils of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo became oppositioncontrolled councils. Of the six city councils in the country, ZANU-PF controlled only one, Kwe Kwe. Even here, the electorate returned an opposition Member of Parliament. ZANU-PF also lost control of five of the nine municipal councils—which in Zimbabwe’s urban hierarchy are a tier below city councils. As some commentators have demonstrated, from 2000 the country became polarised politically and spatially (Hammar and Raftopoulos, 2003; Kamete, 2004b). Towns and cities became opposition outposts; the ruling party remained dominant in rural areas (SPT, 2005). The parliamentary, council, mayoral and presidential elections and byelections held after February 2000, repeatedly confirmed this polarisation. In the 2005 general elections, barely two months before OM/ RO, the MDC took 26 of the 30 parliamentary seats in the major urban centres. Even the presidency began to acknowledge and endorse this polarisation, hence the public insults directed at townspeople and incessant pleas to them to reconsider their animosity towards ZANU-PF (Kamete, 2006c). Strained centre–local relations. It is during this post-2000 period that centre–local relations were radically transformed as the country witnessed an unprecedented disjunction between urban local and national governance. In all of the urban centres mentioned earlier, the party that controlled national government was not the party that

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controlled local councils. For the first time in history, the ruling party found itself virtually absent in terms of democratic representation in major urban centres. To make matters worse for central government, most of the new opposition-controlled councils became fiercely independent and defiant. Obviously playing to the gallery, some of them publicly defied central government, claiming that they were in fact thwarting ZANU-PF’s devious machinations to reclaim the cities and towns it had lost. In a clear show of what central government—not always incorrectly— interpreted as insubordination, opposition councils routinely disregarded and/or contested central government instructions, directives and guidelines (Kamete, 2006a). The multiple electoral defeats and purported local council insubordination spurred central government into action as it sought to salvage its dominance in urban politics and rein in what it saw as renegade councils. Beginning in 2003, central government launched a spirited campaign to retrieve its influence in cities and towns. The strategy was two-pronged. The first one was to maintain control of urban centres by retaining or regaining control of key local government administrative and governance institutions such as local councils; the second strategy was to regain lost ground by leapfrogging the opposition into local political offices through electoral triumphs (Kamete, 2006c). The first strategy worked. By December 2004, Harare’s opposition executive mayor and the opposition-controlled council had been sacked. In their place was put a pliant government-appointed commission. Versions of the strategy were successfully implemented in Chitungwiza, Chegutu and Mutare with notable successes. However, when it came to regaining lost ground through electoral triumphs, ZANU-PF repeatedly failed. This was confirmed in the March 2005 general elections when the ruling party predictably


lost major urban constituencies by an embarrassingly wide margin. After again losing the urban vote in the 2005 general elections, President Mugabe attacked urban voters as “habitually fickle” and accused them of wavering and withdrawing their support from ZANU-PF. In contrast, he hailed rural voters as “the vanguard in the sweet defence of our sovereignty” (The Herald, 11 April 2005). To make matters worse for central government —and by extension, ZANUPF—urban centres continued to be territorial bases for numerous ‘oppositional forces’, a term which in government parlance denotes not only the opposition party, but also civil society, students, the independent media and individuals critical of central government. Government’s suspicions might not have been unfounded. The few high-profile protests that took place after the disputed 2005 elections were all in large urban centres. Although, as claimed by their organisers and sympathisers, these protests were not against the government, but against bad governance, against economic conditions and food shortages (HRW, 2005, p. 7), the fact that they were organised by civil society known to be critical of government’s record of political and economic governance, inevitably resulted in the state labelling them as ‘oppositional’ or ‘anti-government’. The place of urban planning. Zimbabwe’s urban planning systems have a reputation for being legalistic and tough (Kamete, 1999; Potts, 2007). The existing planning and local government legislation suggests that planning is supposed to remain untainted by the political transformations and squabbles in the country. Zimbabwe has a well-established institutional and legal framework for spatial planning. At central government level, the Department of Physical Planning (DPP) in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development (MLGPWUD) is the

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government’s chief spatial planning agency. Its mandate is to ensure “the co-ordinated and orderly spatial development of Zimbabwe” by providing and facilitating “sound physical planning to government, local authorities and the general public” (DPP, 1998). It is responsible for the formulation and review of policy, legislation, standards, design briefs and guidelines. DPP is the chief custodian of the Regional Town and Country Planning (RTCP) Act, the principal planning legislation. According to the RTCP Act, all urban councils are designated as ‘local planning authorities’ for the areas under their jurisdiction. In the cities, planning is, therefore, a decentralised function. Most urban local authorities, including all the major cities, have their own planning units that handle routine planning activities such as advising policy-makers, development control, planning and building applications, enforcing planning controls and advising/representing the local authority in planning-related legal disputes. The planning units are directly answerable to the local authority. Planning-related central government directives, policies and instructions come to planners through the local authorities. Each local authority has two parallel structures, one political and the other technical. The political side comprises elected councillors who represent wards. Led by an elected executive mayor, councillors are responsible for policy-making. The technical side is made up of professionals appointed on merit. Planners belong to this technical side, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the city. In the councils, issues are deliberated upon in council committees. Only these committees can legally come up with binding decisions. When a committee arrives at a decision, it presents that decision to the Executive Committee, which is made up of chairpersons of all committees and is chaired by the mayor. If accepted by the Executive Committee, the decision of the

committee is then presented before full council for ratification through a democratic vote. If it gets the majority vote, the decision is adopted and passed on to the technical arm for implementation. As stipulated in section 96 of the Urban Councils Act, every urban council should have an environmental management committee “which shall be responsible for environmental matters relating to the council” (Government of Zimbabwe, 1995). Commonly called the Environmental and Town Planning Committee (ETPC) in most councils including Harare, it is this committee that oversees issues related to spatial planning. On the advice of professional planners, the committee formulates the local authority’s planning policies, bye-laws and strategic plans. It also approves planning applications. The duty of planners is to advise the ETPC and to implement formulated policies within the framework of the RTCP Act. Legally, central government still has a strong say in some local planning matters. This is done through the local government minister under whose portfolio physical planning falls. For example, section 29 of the RTCP Act grants the minister the power to ‘call in’ applications so that he can make decisions on them. According to the Act (Government of Zimbabwe, 1996), the minister may If he [sic] is so satisfied, having regard to the national or regional implications, that it is in the public interest to do so, give directions to a local planning authority: (a) that any application or class of applications made ... shall be referred to him [sic] for determination instead of being dealt with by the local planning authority; (b) restricting or regulating the granting of any permit or preliminary planning permission in respect of any type of development specified in the direction.

So, in a way the Act does make room for central government intervention in local planning issues ‘in the public interest’. However, it should be noted that this is only on matters

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of planning applications. Enforcement is the purview of the local planning authority acting in line with the provisions of planning legislation. There is thus a good measure of autonomy for local planners. The enforcement of planning controls and regulations in the local planning authority’s areas of jurisdiction is a local planning issue, handled by local planners. Why ‘Operation Murambatsvina/ Restore Order’?

As shown earlier, OM/RO was launched in a complex and problematic socio-political and economic context. It is from and within this complex environment that meanings and interpretations about the operation have been constructed. This charged environment presents some clues that one can use to frame and interpret the disagreement between central government and its critics regarding the controversial operation. Central government insisted that as a sovereign state it launched the clean-up operation for technical, legal and practical reasons and that its actions were within the parameters set by appropriate legislation. In its explanation, government appealed to the principles of planning, planning law and spatial order. OM/RO, according to central government was primarily launched in order to “stem disorderly or chaotic urbanisation and its attendant problems” (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 16). This is the strong message government meant to send through the alternative English name for the clean-up campaign: ‘Restore Order’. Why the disorder could not be tolerated was explained in typically technocratic language. The problems of ‘disorderly and chaotic urbanisation’ were manifold. The first problem cited by the state is a threat to public health and safety, a standard concern for planning everywhere. Thus OM/RO was meant to stem “the threat of major disease outbreaks due to overcrowding and squalor” (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 16). Related to this was the


second planning-related problem—namely, the threat to the physical environment and natural resources “caused by inappropriate and unlawful urban settlements, industrial and agricultural practices” (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 16), all symptoms of spatial disorder and chaos. Finally, according to government there was the problem of social vices and economic sabotage. Put together, government claimed in its techno-legal reasoning, that these problems “hinder[ed] the government and local authorities from enforcing national and local authority by-laws and providing service delivery [sic]”. Planning features prominently in all these technocratic rebuttals of criticism. Perhaps this explains why the authorities consistently appealed to planning principles and legislation to explain or justify OM/RO. Government’s passionately reasoned defence of OM/RO was strongly countered by local and international critics most of whom reduce the operation to politics. In typical contempt, the Solidarity Peace Trust dismisses the techno-legal arguments as nothing more than “declared intentions” (SPT, 2005, p. 14), implying that they were part of a public relations ploy, akin to what Flyvbjerg (1998) terms ‘rationalisation’. To sceptics and critics, OM/RO was not a national project but a ZANU-PF strategy to reclaim the urban areas that had been wrested from it by the MDC: OM/RO was about the “control of towns” by ZANU-PF (SPT, 2005, p. 22). The only way to accomplish this was to neutralise the source of the MDC’s political potency—namely, people who lived in the high-density, lowincome residential areas and informal settlements and made a living in the informal economy. As expected, the MDC leader described the evictions and demolition as attacks on the urban population ... [and] part of a broad strategy to destabilise specific constituencies and to distort the voting patterns of Zimbabweans in favour of ZANU-PF (SABC, 1 June 2005).

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A major independent weekly and a leading academic simultaneously dubbed OM/RO “the battle for the cities” (The Zimbabwe Independent, 3 June 2005; Raftopoulos, 2005). According to this view, OM/RO featured in ZANU-PF’s plans because it was meant to depopulate urban areas by forcing restless townspeople to rural areas where ZANU-PF was better able to control them (see Kamete, 2006b) and where it was easier to win elections through electoral fraud and intimidation. Thus, the governing party having failed to win over urban residents “by dangling the carrot” (Activist E), was now bent on “emptying the cities” (Peta, quoted by CBS News, 2005) in order, among other things, to avert civil strife and minimise damage in electoral contests. Agreeing with this assessment, a coalition of human rights groups speculated that the government seemed “to want to induce many of the people ... to move back to the rural areas” (NGO Forum, 2005, p. 13). Apart from controlling the towns, according to critics, there was another sadistic reason behind OM/RO: retribution. Government wanted to punish townspeople for turning their back against the ruling party. Thus, the targeted urban-dwellers’ crime was not about planning; rather, it was all about them rebelling against ZANU-PF and openly switching their allegiance to the MDC to become what an opposition legislator termed “a powerful support base for the opposition” (Cross, 2005). To make matters worse, these urban voters were in the habit of ceaselessly taunting the ruling party as a ‘ruralised’ party (Kamete, 2006b). So, to punish them, government wanted to send the townsfolk to the rural areas, to ‘ruralise’ them. Echoing this view, The Financial Gazette (June 2005), the country’s oldest independent business weekly, tellingly asked whether OM/RO was a “political backlash or genuine clean-up”. The third accusation against government is that it launched OM/RO because it feared an uprising. According to this view, OM/RO

was a political survival strategy. The Solidarity Peace Trust explained it this way As social hardship, real anger and poverty escalate, the government has reason to be increasingly afraid of a popular uprising. By removing all vendors, O[peration] M[urambatsvina] is depopulating urban centres, removing informal structures and thus physically clearing the streets of places to hide, while also reducing and controlling movement of people in and out of towns; this undermines the possibility of any kind of organised mass action against the government (SPT, 2005, p. 25).

Interestingly, this view was corroborated by a government apologist who claimed that the government initiated OM/RO to forestall an uprising (see later) (Ankomah, 2005). Another oft-cited reason for OM/RO is essentially economic in nature. A day before the operation was launched in Harare, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the architect of numerous, and hitherto futile, economic ‘turnaround’ programmes singled out the ‘parallel market’—equivalent to the informal sector—as being behind the RBZ’s fighting a losing war against continuously deteriorating economic indicators. The parallel market was by then routinely blamed by government for economic sabotage through, among other crimes, siphoning out foreign currency by offering much better rates compared with the controlled official exchange rate. At the time, the parallel market was also the conduit for many basic commodities that had disappeared from shops where they would not fetch high prices, thanks to government’s strict price controls. Since the persistent shortages of foreign currency and basic commodities were usually portrayed as symptomatic of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis (IMF, 2005, p. 4), identifying the informal sector as the chief culprit was not an insignificant omen. In his 2005 Post-Election Monetary Policy Statement, the RBZ boss ominously warned

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We cannot, and will NOT, allow any shadow forces to interfere with, or derail our turnaround programme, which we are putting back on the rails with immediate effect (Gono, 2005b, p. 18; original emphasis).

Admitting that there would “always be unscrupulous elements in every society”, the governor warned that government would not allow these elements to dominate our sphere, sabotage our turnaround and derail what has already been an extremely difficult journey (Gono, 2005b, p. 59).

The link between the governor’s speech and OM/RO is much more than chronological. Explicitly threatening to deal with “the illegal ‘parallel’ market for foreign currency [that] has surfaced again”, the governor indicated that “measures are being put in place to curb the activities of this market decisively” (Gono, 2005b, p. 59; original emphasis). Not surprisingly, despite the governor’s protestations to the contrary, many insist that the ‘clean-up’ campaign was an integral part of the promised ‘decisive’ measures (Tibaijuka, 2005, pp. 12, 87; Sachikonye, 2006, p. 19). The foregoing analysis suggests that it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the contrasting views between government and its critics. About three years after the operation, the contending parties have dug in their heels. Critics continue to accuse the state of politically motivated repression, while the state maintains its techno-legal defence. As for planning, its role in OM/RO remains a subject of speculation, there having been no systematic analysis to determine the exact role played by planning in this controversial operation.

Debating the Role of Planning The Study

This part of the paper discusses findings from research undertaken between August 2005


and April 2006. The study sought, first, to interrogate the role and contribution of planners and planning to the instigation and design of the operation before it was launched; and, secondly, to determine the extent to which planners and planning served as the handmaiden of state repression during the operation described by one journalist as “a scorched-earth policy towards potential foes” (Wines, 2005). Apart from digging into the archives for official documents, reports of relevant organisations and press reports, the study entailed discussions with planners, activists and victims. Out of the 30 originally randomly selected, 23 professional planners agreed to be interviewed: 17 from the public sector, 3 from the private sector, and 3 from academia (see Table 1). Of the 17 public sector planners, 8 were from central government; 8 were distributed across 6 urban local authorities. The bias towards public-sector planners was influenced by the fact that these are the technocrats who were supposed to play an active role in the state-directed operation, since they worked for central government and local planning authorities. All the planners are graduates of the local planning school where they learned, as Planner CG4 boasted, “to be accomplished technocrats competent in the application of scientific methods to policy”. The ranking shown in Table 1 was according to their job titles at the time. A semi-structured interview schedule was used to interview the planners. The interviews centred on three key issues: awareness of and details on the part played by planners in instigating and designing OM/RO; the role of planning in the execution of the operation; and, their personal assessment of the role of planning before, during and after OM/RO. Of the 13 activists interviewed, 9 were drawn from civil society organisations and 4 were individual ‘crusaders’. These were people who were known to have criticised, protested against or opposed the operation

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Table 1. Planner profiles and interview details (N = 23) Identification


Date interviewed

Central government Planner CG1 Planner CG2 Planner CG3 Planner CG4 Planner CG5 Planner CG6 Planner CG7 Planner CG8

Junior Middle Middle Middle Junior Senior Senior Middle

14 January 2006 25 March 2006 21 December 2005 12 January 2006 21 December 2005 27 March 2006 27 December 2005 10 January 2006

Local government Planner LG1 Planner LG2 Planner LG3 Planner LG4 Planner LG5 Planner LG6 Planner LG7 Planner LG8 Planner LG9

Middle Middle Middle Junior Senior Senior Senior Senior Senior

14 January 2006 16 August 2005 27 December 2005 16 August 2005 12 August 2005 14 January 2006 16 January 2006 9 January 2006 12 August 2005

Private sector Planner PV1 Planner PV2 Planner PV3

Senior 9 January 2006 Middle 21 December 2005 Middle 27 March 2006

Academia Planner AC1 Planner AC2 Planner AC3

Junior 14 January 2006 Middle 21 December 2005 Middle 16 August 2005

(see Table 2). Discussions with activists focused on their encounters and dealings with planners and elements of the planning system during the operation as well as each activist’s personal viewpoints on the contribution of planning to the design and implementation of OM/RO. The ‘victims’ who agreed to take part in the study were 27 young people who had been displaced by OM/RO. They were aged between 15 and 26 years. All were self-employed and illegally operated from sites that I had been studying for a number of years. Information from them was gathered through five focus group discussions, in groups of between

four and seven participants. Three graduate students from the local university helped with the focus group discussions that were carried out at the premises of a local nongovernmental organisation. The discussions revolved around the victims’ encounters and dealings with planners and elements of the planning system during OM/RO as well as opinions on the part played by planners and planning in the campaign. OM/RO: The Mechanism

OM/RO involved state and extra-state agencies. The police, secret services and army were complimented by elements of youth militia. Activist D labelled these “the formidable frontline destroyers”. These are the elements that did “the actual dirty donkey work” (Activist K). There were two methods to the operation. In public or semi-public areas such as open spaces and streets, the ‘frontline destroyers’ usually appeared without warning. They assaulted and/or arrested vagrants, street children, vendors and loiterers and detained them at police stations. After initial screening, those not deemed ‘innocent’ would be dispatched in government trucks to ‘holding centres’. In residential areas, intelligence gathering preceded demolitions and evictions. Information on the legal status of buildings and land use was obtained from local planning offices. When they got to a residential stand, the ‘destroyers’ would demand to see building permits and certificates for each structure on the stand. Where this was not produced, they would then ask the owner to remove goods within a set period, usually minutes. A bulldozer would then be directed to the stand to pull down all unauthorised extensions or outbuildings. In some cases, some of the ‘destroyers’ sometimes forced the owners of ‘illegal’ structures to destroy them while subjecting them to verbal and/or physical assaults. The role of planners was twofold: provision of information; and technical explanation

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Table 2. Activist profile and interview details (N=13) Identification



Date interviewed

Activist A Activist B Activist C Activist D Activist E Activist F Activist G Activist H Activist I Activist J Activist K Activist L Activist M

Law Social work Engineering Law Sociology Education Health Community development Economist Trade unionism Political science ‘Humanism’ Religion

Human rights Youth Politics Human rights Gender Housing Human rights Poverty eradication Black empowerment Informal sector Humanitarian Gender Governance and democracy

16 August 2005 16 August 2005 23 December 2005 23 December 2005 22 December 2005 21 December 2005 21 December 2005 14 January 2005 14 January 2005 9 January 2006 22 December 2005 27 December 2005 12 January 2006

and rationalisation. Planners provided details and information on the legal status of each structure in a given area. This was the major contribution of urban planners in urban councils. Some planners sometimes accompanied the ‘frontline destroyers’ on their door-to-door verification exercise, pointing out which land uses or buildings were legal and which were not. Senior planners dominated the realm of technical explanation and rationalisation. As will be shown in the following section, there is evidence that planners advised government although there is controversy regarding the exact moment at which they starting doing this. Government’s comprehensive and largely correct articulation of the techno-legal aspects of OM/RO centred on planning. There are other more subtle ways in which planning contributed to OM/RO. Notably, government acted as if planning law enabled and required it to act. This is important, considering that notwithstanding accusations of being autocratic and emasculating the judiciary, the government of Zimbabwe takes every opportunity to brandish its adherence to the letter of the law, sometimes even creating new laws before acting. The principles of planning also featured prominently in government’s

justification. Thus government claimed that it was acting in the public interest by championing public health, economy, amenity, aesthetics, safety, environmental sanitation and so on. Instigating and Planning OM/RO

Some critics were convinced that planning played a significant role in the formulation of OM/RO through the actions of planners and through the (ab)use of planning systems by government. In her report, the United Nations Special Envoy concluded that OM/RO “was based on improper advice by a few architects of the operation” (Tibaijuka, 2005, p. 76). Many Activists (69.2 per cent), a significant proportion of planners (34.7 per cent) and an overwhelming majority of the victims (92.6 per cent) were eager to insert planners into the reviled group of the ‘few architects’. Some even mentioned names of planners at the Department of Physical Planning and the City of Harare. Planner AC3 was convinced that OM/RO was “the evil brainchild ... of planning”. He insisted that individual planners may not have “hatched the plot ... but issues that are intrinsic to planning [such as] the principles of planning and planning law contributed a lot in triggering the Tsunami”.

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Activist D, who works in a human rights organisation, maintained that it was clear that “planners needlessly instigated the operation ... and they kept it going”. During the interviews it was repeatedly stated that planning was the reason and the cause of the operation ... Planner AC1, an academic in the university’s planning department, claimed there was enough evidence “to deduce that planning was right there right at the beginning”. The same view was shared by all the victims. Musa, a 24-year-old victim of the operation who had lost part of his house and all of his business, angrily reflected From the beginning it was all about planning, planning, planning. ... Planners started all this. All we heard of was ‘planning this, planning that’. There was endless mention of some stupid rules of planning [sic]. ... We were accused of breaking those rules. If we had some issues to contest, we were rudely told to go to something called planning [sic].

The supposed influence and power of planners in the conception and design of the ‘clean-up’ campaign was immortalised in some (not entirely unverified) allegations that some planners could be talked into sparing properties of people who would have ‘bought coke’, a euphemism for the payment of bribes. Rudo, a 23-year-old female vendor claimed that There was word going around that if you wanted to bribe someone to save your property, you were supposed to see some planner or talk to someone who would link you to the right planner ... I can tell you names of several people who managed to save their houses by paying up.

Rudo was right. The study did verify that, in at least 13 cases in 4 urban centres, some corrupt planners and building inspectors were paid bribes to issue hurriedly fake building permits and certificates that made it appear as if buildings and extensions were

legal. It was this influential role of planners that prompted Gibbs (aged 19) who not only lost his business, but was also forcibly taken to the ‘holding centre’, to develop palpable hatred for “planners and all things planning” (Activist J). Gibbs swore he was speaking on behalf of countless others when he fumed, “They [planners] did this to me! ... It’s them! Without these ... dogs of Bob [President Mugabe] this wouldn’t have happened”. This outburst strongly suggests that planners instigated OM/RO; it also suggests that planners could have stopped it. Further evidence of “the unmistakable fingerprints of planning” (Activist A) was based on the conspicuousness of planners and the prominence of planning issues “at that critical juncture” when the operation was at its “most evil peak” (Activist G). Shortly after the official launch of OM/RO, planners were “seen by everyone [sic] ... right there in the forefront of repression” (Activist D) and planning was “the keyword ... sort of the hit song” (Activist H). The “unwanted high profile of planning” (Planner LG4) in OM/RO was not helped by the constant deployment by central government of planning arguments to explain and rationalise the operation (see Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 35). Interestingly, during the demolitions and evictions, the authorities made a show of religiously abiding by the provisions of the RTCP Act. Commenting on this, Planner PV2, a consultant whose major clients include government, asked Who advised them? They did not just have an epiphany one day, did they? ... This is where we can say planning was caught in bed with the owners of the country. Murambatsvina was conceived in that bed. Somebody in DPP knows something we would like to know.

The government’s choice of the RTCP Act “as the weapon of choice” was taken as irrefutable evidence that “planning engineered everything about the Tsunami” (Activist F).

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A number of commentators noted that there were several pieces of legislation that the government could have invoked to justify its actions. These include the Public Health Act, Urban Councils Act, Housing Standards Control Act and Roads Act (see HRW, 2005; Wole and Tungwarara, 2005). Yet why did the government choose to foreground planning in OM/RO? According to Planner AC1, the government “effectively nailed planning” when it authoritatively responded It needs to be pointed out that the legislation is only invoked where there is a prima facie evidence [sic] of an offence, or on just or reasonable cause to believe that the law has been violated. Therefore the Government of Zimbabwe primarily invoked the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act in most instances as it has cross cutting issues (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 35; emphasis added).

This is a telling statement. To begin with, it implies that among the available cocktail of statutory and regulatory instruments, the RTCP Act is the only act that conveniently suited the state’s purposes. It simultaneously enabled the state to launch, execute and rationalise OM/RO. As Activist B opined, “many other benign acts” were simply not “enabling enough to allow the dictatorship to execute the evil it had schemed to perpetrate and justify it ... with so much ease and convenience”. The statement also implies that, for the government’s purpose, the Act was convenient in three important ways. First, it is broad enough effectively to “nail anyone that needed to be nailed” (Planner AC1). In Planner CG4’s words, “it is broad enough to catch all”. Secondly, the Act is draconian enough to allow the state to descend on offenders with what Planner CG7, described as “the full unadulterated force of the law”. Thirdly, in the short term—which was the state’s timehorizon—the Act is tamper-proof enough to


avoid “unnecessary spanners in the works” (Planner LG7). According to Planner LG2, in the short run, the RTCP Act is “foolproof enough not to let its victims escape”. By the time legal contests would have been concluded, OM/RO would have served its purpose. The planning legislation was thus right for “the immediate repression that masqueraded as a clean-up” (Activist B). It appears that it was the potential for planning to be manipulated to serve the interests of repression that contributed to the state making the decision to amplify the planning dimensions of the violations allegedly perpetrated by those targeted by the operation. This is what led to planning assuming a high profile. The arguments of critics seem to centre on how the state came to realise this potential and how to exploit it. It is here that planning is suspected of having taken a part in instigating OM/RO. “Without planners they couldn’t have discovered it. No they couldn’t”, observed Planner PV3. The fact that the chief civil servant of the campaign’s lead ministry, the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the MLGPWNH, is a qualified planner was not lost on those who are convinced of the complicity of planning in the instigation and design of OM/RO. Planner LG5 asserted that I am senior ... in the job. I know how these things work. The PS is the chief adviser to Chombo [the local government minister], the cabinet’s point man on planning matters. Chombo is a mere teacher ... There is no way he could have grasped and mastered the nuts and bolts of planning control and all the nuances. No ways.

Planning’s case is not helped by the fact that the PS is a respected member and a onetime president of the Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners (ZIRUP), the national professional planning body. It is this positioning and subsequent ‘fronting’ of planning that made it easy for many not

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only to associate planning with the operation, but also to claim that “planners were definitely ... actively involved in the concoction of the satanic brew” (Planner LG5) that was OM/RO. The Handmaiden of State Repression

The second case against planning is that it was the handmaiden of a partisan political project in the sense that it played a supporting and subordinate role to repression. As is the case in the first accusation, those subscribing to this view cite as evidence the actions of planners and the (ab)use of planning systems by government. The conflation of central government with the ruling party in Zimbabwean politics made accusations of partisanship inevitable. Planning was viewed as actively assisting ZANU-PF in its single-minded desire to control urban areas, to punish the urban populace for rejecting the party, to forestall “a phantom uprising” (Activist K) and to get rid of alleged economic saboteurs. In this criticism, planners might not have instigated the operation, but the planning profession certainly was the “chief co-conspirator and an active participant” (Activist E). Planners were perceived as zealously and unconscionably “advancing and promoting a ZANU-PF political agenda” (Activist G). As expected, this criticism is prevalent among those who interpret OM/RO as a political survival strategy by the ruling party. By virtue of the actions of planners, planning is accused of unquestioningly assisting ZANU-PF in its political schemes. Planning is denounced as having played a conspicuous role in an ostensibly political project that anyone perspicacious enough was able to discern. Civil society activists were particularly scathing in their remarks. Activist M who was at the forefront of the “loudest protests” against OM/RO fumed Don’t tell me that planners failed to see what everybody else saw. Murambatsvina was a political manoeuvre, period. There are four

types of people that participated eagerly in this operation: the police, the Green Bombers [youth militia], the army and planners. ... If you know where the allegiance of the militia, army and police lie [sic] ... and who their masters are, the conclusion about planners should be obvious.

Planner PV1 asserted If we have been claiming that [the] security forces and law enforcement [agents] are partisan and have failed in their duty ... then from now on you should include planners in this roll of shame. ... While the security forces provided the muscle, planning provided the intellectual impetus and justification. I don’t think anyone should see it any other way.

This accusation was strengthened when some planners actively participated in the propaganda that was designed to “scrub and market the campaign” (Planner CG3). Voices of senior planners appeared in the state-controlled press in articles that had titles like “Government not punishing people” (The Herald, 16 June 2005), “Clean-up exercise bears fruit” (The Sunday Mail, 2005) and “Operation to leave informal sector more focused” (The Herald, 30 June 2005). Significantly, statements by planners appeared alongside those of senior party and government officials explaining the necessity and extolling the virtues of OM/RO “with a shamelessly straight face” (Activist C). The most (in)famous evidence of planning’s complicity in state propaganda appeared in an article entitled “Urban planners call for proper urban planning policies”, where planners reasoned that OM/RO had “brought sanity to the urban settlements which is critical in the on-going efforts to turn-around the fortunes of the country’s economy” (The Herald, 27 June 2005). This was interpreted by Planner LG1 as “professional prostitution of the worst kind”; Activist M described it as an act of “pawning their [planners’] collective soul ... to the devil”.

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Again constantly mentioned in the interviews was the fact that the most senior civil servant in the lead ministry—and widely believed to have been the government’s chief technical advisor on the operation—is a qualified planner. Significantly, he is a former director of the DPP, widely believed to be the “intellectual command centre” (Planner AC3) of OM/RO. Tellingly, the “technical polishing and cleansing of the operation”, in terms of its rationalisation and counterargumentation, about a week after the launch, convinced many critics that this is when planning “prostituted its bloody soul to power” (Planner LG1) and “offered itself to be of service to the party” (Planner AC2). The “inexplicable and sudden desire” (Planner CG5) by the authorities to adhere to some provisions of the RTCP Act when they published a controversial enforcement order (Tibaijuka, 2005, p. 57), was taken by some as evidence of “the prostitutional acts of planning” (Activist G). Planner PV2 suspiciously asked, “Who advised them [the authorities] that they could ... justify their actions in planning terms? Obviously planning sold out ... We sold out!”. As if to signal their satisfaction with planning’s performance in their “evillest of evil causes” (interview, George, aged 21), the authorities later publicly barred police from making public statements on OM/RO, saying “they have no right to do so” (The Daily Mirror, 2005). Henceforth, policy statements regarding OM/RO were to be the preserve of the MLGPWUD, the parent ministry of planning. As noted earlier, the ministry’s most senior technocrat—and, therefore, the state’s principal advisor on the operation— was a certified planner. Not surprisingly, some respondents subscribing to the view that planning was the willing handmaiden of the state mentioned as evidence the apparent approval by government of what Planner CG2 termed “the stellar performance of planning” by publicly “promoting it to be


the ... undisputed chief P[ublic] R[elations] office ... for propagandising, sanitising and marketing the Tsunami” (Activist D).

Assessing the Culpability of Planning Was Planning the Instigator?

Notwithstanding the prominence of planning and the visibility of some senior planners during the operation, available evidence suggests that central government was certainly not “incited to embark on the operation by planning” (Planner CG7). It appears OM/RO was not an invention of the local or central government bureaucratic machinery. A recent report describes the intrigue surrounding the exact origins of the operation Oral evidence heard from senior government officials, including ministers, as well as subsequent reports in the local press and discussions in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, suggest that Operation Restore Order was neither conceived collectively in the cabinet, nor in the ruling party’s ... Politburo and Central Committee (IDMC, 2006, p. 26).

In fact, a cabinet minister and member of ZANU-PF’s highest decision-making body told me that he was not aware of OM/RO and “was like all of you caught by surprise by this act of madness”. If the architects of the operation could marginalise crucial state and ruling party organs, there is no reason to believe that bureaucrats in some technocratic state agency like the DPP were “even remotely connected to the intrigue or discussions leading to the design of the Tsunami” (Planner CG8). It is tempting to agree with Planner LG9 who insisted that “planning was nowhere near the birthplace ... and all planners did not even have foreknowledge of the birth of Murambatsvina because technically there was no pregnancy”. Things became a lot clearer when it later emerged that OM/RO might have been a

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lot bigger than planning. Some reports and telling hints suggest that there might have been issues of state security at stake (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 30; see also Ankomah, 2005). Reportedly, there were fears of a post-election insurrection and the state wanted to “nip the danger in the bud” (Ankomah, 2005, p. 54) by hitting at the likely sites of the uprising—namely, the crowded residential areas and the bustling streets. A government apologist revealed that “the operation was the brainchild of Zimbabwe’s intelligence community” (Ankomah, 2005, p. 53). Government tried to dismiss these assertions after they had been reprinted in the government-controlled daily (The Herald, 4 October 2005). However, government inadvertently corroborated this assertion, when it argued that such was “the risk to ... national security ... that the operation had to be undertaken without further delay” (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005, p. 30). A time-honoured method of dealing with this threat is to neutralise these “insurrectionary spaces” (Scott, 1998, p. 61) by clearing them. In view of the foregoing, it is unlikely that planning was the instigator of the operation. There is no evidence suggesting that planning approached the state with an idea that evolved into OM/RO. Similarly, there is no evidence showing that, in accordance with the precepts of instrumental rationalism, the state tasked planning with designing means to a desired goal and that planning subsequently recommended OM/RO. The crudity of the operation and its erroneous sequencing suggests that planning was brought in when “everything had been decided and the operation was already in full swing” (Planner CG4). Further, OM/RO showed all the hallmarks of not being well planned, a point admitted by even one of the staunchest apologists of the government (Ankomah, 2005). Of course, as some suspicious activists and planners insisted, the blunders could have been a result of “poor planning or flawed

implementation procedures” (Activist J) or of the state not “adhering to the original plan” (Planner LG5). To be sure, the government is notorious for unilaterally modifying plans during implementation or dumping technical blueprints altogether and coming up with something completely new, while still rationalising its actions in terms of the original plan. Be that as it may, far from suggesting a modification of plans, “the numerous major bloopers” (Planner AC2) in OM/RO do not indicate a bad or modified plan; rather, they are symptomatic of the absence of any plan. Was Planning the Handmaiden of State Repression?

It is difficult, almost impossible, for planning to evade the accusation that, during the operation, it provided a supporting and subordinate role to repression. Some state planners admitted that once the operation was under way, they did give “some critical professional advice ... [to government] as per instructions” (Planner CG1). To be sure, there is nothing amiss with this. As Planner PV1 admitted, it would have been “profoundly unprofessional for them [public planners] to defy a lawful instruction by the employer”. In Zimbabwe’s hazardous political landscape, this could have been dangerous, too. Although quite a few planners (33 per cent) stated that they were not aware—and some (26 per cent) did not believe—that OM/RO was a politically motivated programme, one needs to ask the important question: had planners known or suspected what Planner CG6 dismissed as “the purported political nature of OM/RO”, could they possibly have “stayed away or opted out of the dubious so-called clean-up campaign” (Activist H)? Fifteen of the 23 public-sector planners admitted that there is no way they would have defied the state. Whereas they could do nothing to avoid being conscripted into the operation, surely it can be argued that planners participated in the sanitisation propaganda “of their own

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free volition [sic]” (Activist L). As argued by Planner PV1, who described himself as a “very disenchanted and ashamed planner [sic]”, participating in the “sanitisation component of OM/RO” might not have been an option, but “really did they have to go that far ... to utter all those embarrassing things in that manner” in defence of the state’s position? According to Activist L, what makes planning’s position “extremely untenable” is the fact that some “planners shamelessly enjoyed the limelight” and, in an attempt to “look and sound smart in the public media”, they marshalled all their knowledge and expertise to prop up the state case. Indeed, they “surely might have known that they were unnecessarily restocking the state’s moral arsenal” (Planner AC3). In any case, as insightfully asked by Batsi, a final-year planning student, “why didn’t ... planners offer corresponding advice ... to those man enough [sic]” to contest central government’s manoeuvres? If planners’ zealous contribution to the state’s cause was “motivated by duty and ego, why couldn’t they satisfy their ... egos and fulfil their duty to society” by giving an impartial analysis or “helping the weak and suffering side” (Activist M), through propping up their case, however, surreptitiously? Planner CG6 retorted, “That’s a job for hired consultants and idealists. I don’t remember anyone asking me to help”. Were the planners who contributed to central government’s cause unwilling pawns, mere victims of the manipulation of planning law and principles by the ZANU-PF government? Planner CG7 all but admitted that some planners were glad that the operation had been launched and were happy to be of help. He reasoned that We are like the bureaucrats who were not involved when Bush was planning the invasion [of Iraq]. We did not know and we were not involved. When Bush invaded Iraq, bureaucrats had to execute their mandate ... Bush was after oil ... Sekuru [literally ‘grandfather’, a


reference to President Mugabe] may have had his own crazy political agenda. Just like some of those American bureaucrats were happy to help dethrone a terrible dictator ... some of us were happy to see the chaos and disorders go ... We were happy to be of service.

If asked ‘to help’, would he do it again? He said, “Most certainly ... but I prefer to be involved in the beginning ... to be at the drawing table to avoid more silly mistakes”. About half the planners broadly endorsed these sentiments. This is where planning cannot escape the ridicule poured on it. By appearing to embrace the operation, glorifying its effects and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the authorities and speaking the same language as them, planners were taking what Activist D branded “an anti-people stance”. Miriam (aged 19) believes that planners were in effect “stating where they put their hearts and ... sympathies”. If only for this reason, planning deserves to be branded as the handmaiden of state repression. The planning system was manipulated and (ab)used; and senior public planners “shamelessly behaved as puppets and praise singers for evil” (Molly, aged 18). Even when the state was not following the spirit and the letter of the planning law it was continuously invoking, as Ndatani (aged 22) complained, planners “chose not to stand with the people”.

Conclusion An assessment of the contribution of planning to OM/RO needs to take into account two contextual features—namely, the national environment and the state of centre–local relations. Perhaps what needs to be mentioned first is that, in authoritarian Zimbabwe, the centre is still strong. There is no “hollowingout” of the ‘nation-state’ (Jessop, 2004). The core is neither fragmented nor disabled (Holliday, 2000). The absence of “denationalisation of statehood” (Jessop, 2004, p. 15) is what made OM/RO necessary and possible:

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necessary in the sense that the ZANU-PF government was used to having all the authority in the land and was not prepared to see its authority and dominance wilt away; and possible in the sense that the government had the power, will and authority to commandeer local planning systems. It is also this undiluted strength of the centre that made it tempting for critics readily to associate planning with state repression, because in the scheme of things in Zimbabwe, weak-kneed local urban planners could not resist the strong and resolute centre. The operation took place in a country that was awash with multifarious socioeconomic crises and riddled with political discord. Most significantly, OM/RO transpired against a backdrop of political polarisation and animosity. Interscalar relations were tense and acrimonious. Government was under siege, assailed not only by a worsening economic crisis, but also by a growing challenge to its authority and legitimacy. It was a government that had to deal with disgruntled and impoverished urban residents who had become disenchanted with the national leadership and were now in the habit of routinely humiliating the ruling party in elections. Having been kicked out of institutions of urban local governance, ZANU-PF had to deal with many opposition-controlled, fiercely independent and habitually insubordinate urban councils. ZANU-PF was fast losing control and legitimacy. There is no doubt that ZANU-PF was unhappy with its losses in the urban areas. The leadership felt betrayed, humiliated and slighted. Not surprisingly, critics known for being quick to discern partypolitical motives in the government’s every repressive action, pronounced OM/RO a politically motivated campaign. It was because of the prominence of planning issues and the actions, behaviour and attitude of planners that many pointed to planning for a variety of misdemeanours, among them instigating OM/RO and being

the handmaiden of the state’s repressive machinations. However, there is no evidence suggesting that planners incited or advised government to launch OM/RO. Similarly, there is insufficient evidence to implicate the planning profession in the conception, design and planning of OM/RO. However, judging by the state’s use of planning arguments to explain, sanitise and rationalise the operation, and the behaviour of planners in propping up the state’s case, planning can neither brush aside nor minimise the gravity of its subsequent complicity in the state’s project of repression. On this point alone, the accusation that planning was the bureautechnical accomplice of state repression is not entirely baseless. If only for this reason, OM/ RO stands as another disturbing monument to the ‘dark side’ of planning.

Note 1. For example, when vendors are chased off the streets, the eviction is not followed by demolition since there is nothing to demolish; similarly, when extensions or conversions are demolished in formal housing settlements, the demolition is not accompanied by eviction.

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