23 November 2012

Zambia: Effects of Colonial Housing in Developing Zambia


THIS policy was closely tied to those of 'Industrialisation without urbanisation' and "employment tied housing." All of which served to discourage permanent settlement in urban areas for non-Europeans, and a deterrent to political emancipation and political power.

In the 1920s, urban policy required the creation of an urban population which was available at wages below the full costs of production and which would pose no threat to colonial administrative control, but still fall in line with the ideologies of crown control and capitalism.

This was underline by the policy approach that, Africans belonged in the homelands, within their traditional ways of life and could only be allowed into urban areas to meet the labour requirements of the urban economy.

The policy therefore was to maintain a transitory nature of urban male population.

To compel men return to their villages and to ensure that labour remained migratory, women and children were not allowed in urban areas, which were considered male domains. Employment was gender biased and did not allow for handicapped people

It confined women and children to the rural areas. Even men were only supposed to stay in the urban areas for 18 months, when they would be gainfully employed.

Once this condition ceased to exist, they had to return to their homelands.

The working, living and housing conditions Africans were subjected to, were so poor that by the time most workers had served the compulsory period, they would be depleted with ailments and would be sent back to their villages to recover, in mission run hospitals. Suffice to say Government did not provide social facilities or infrastructure in rural areas.

After recovering, they could return and apply for employment. African labour was in all essence temporary and migratory as well.

This was all based on the fear for an enlightened labour cadre that could one day rise for their rights.

This paradigm of cheap migrant labour, with production costs being met by indigenous society, coupled with housing tied employment, was the genesis of housing and urban development problems in Zambia

As alluded to under the policy of industrialisation without urbanisation, colonial administrators were failing to obey the dictates of the paradigm that, the presence of labour required the provision of liveable and affordable housing, which they were not ready to provide.

The African presence was only tolerated for the labour it was to provide

It is clear to see here that, locals were being coerced and forced to seek for employment to raise money for taxes, in urban areas, which were not ready to receive them.

The colonial government kept the flow of immigrants in check by using coercion and force, albeit with little success.

Ironically, the recipient urban areas did not have adequate housing to absorb all the immigrants, as a result, most of them could not find accommodation, they squatted on empty pieces of land on the periphery.

Another way in which squatter settlements were developing.

In his book, On the housing question' Engels (1872), had described this mechanism decades earlier, but had no idea of its implications in the colonies.

The BBC sponsored movie ("Oliver Twist" based on the book by Charles Dickens) exemplifies this condition in Europe during the Industrial Revolution.

The implications for housing was that, since labour was migratory, there was little justification in providing permanent housing to temporary labour, because of this, authorities only provided single quarters for bachelors.

Maintaining this status quo enabled the employers to cut down on the economic cost of providing permanent housing to their employees.

The quality of housing provided was extremely poor by urban standards, although it was comparatively better than what was pertaining elsewhere.

Contradictions in the transitory labour policy for African workers, and the need to have a reserve of readily available workers near employment areas, led to the creation of the five autonomous townships around the major copper mining towns in Zambia

These are shown as follows; Fisenge was created for Luanshya, Kansuswa for Mufulira, Kasompe for Chingola, Chibuluma for both Kitwe and Kalulushi, and Ndola was allocated Twapia, townships.

These townships, also known as 'Kaffir farms,' were built outside designated urban areas, as reservoirs for labour, and mines could fall back on them for recruitment purposes instead of going back to the rural areas every time they needed labour.

Here housing regulations were relaxed and people built under conditions, similar to those pertaining in their homes of origin, and were allowed to carry out urban agriculture and petty businesses on the premises.

In general, this migratory system and others were maintained until independence when they were replaced with the 'freedom of movement' policy, amayendele.

Employment tied housing

If available, housing was only provided to those in gainful employment and it was firmly tied to employment.

Loss of employment meant loss of the house after a prescribed period. This condition applied to all employer-housing and exacerbated the proliferation of squatter settlements.

Initially urban housing comprised mainly of barrack-type single quarters meant for male workers, and these still dominate the urban landscape

Married quarters were only added after the Urban Housing Ordinance was passed in 1948.

This ordinance imposed obligations on large employers, with more than 300 people, to house their employees on employer-owned land or to pay for accommodation in local authority administered housing. After this ordinance, it became local authority's responsibility to house employees not accommodated by the employer.

Local authorities were happy to adopt it as policy in house allocation to attract investment.

Even as late as 1970, council housing policy still favoured the housing of key personnel for new investors and for those wishing to expand existing investment, in their jurisdiction, because it meant building additional housing.

Unfortunately, under this ordinance, water and sanitary services were provided on a non-profit basis, which has had lasting consequences on cost recovery.

It has now even translated into the poor performance of water utilities in Zambia, especially when it comes to cost recovery.

Most immigrants who came to town could not find employment and could therefore not be provided with housing which was employment tied.

They either lodged with their kin or built on the fringes of the urban areas, using construction methods and materials they had learned in their home villages.

This is another way in which some squatter settlements started and proliferated.

No attention was paid to housing provision for the unemployed or those out of employment

This would have actually made very little economic sense because Government and all employers were already failing to house their employees adequately, so paying attention to the un-employed would have been uneconomical, unreasonable and unattainable.

Since it was thought that the growing population would eventually go back to their rural homes, and legislation passed from the colonial period was a reflection of this thought.

Any effort to provide adequate housing proved to be an inadequate response to the growing squatter settlements issue.

The author is a Professor, at the Polytechnic of Namibia, in the Department of Architecture

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