Hard roads: life in austerity Harare is an uphill climb

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Maureen Sigauke

2018-19 Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity

Getting around a major city with young children can be difficult nearly anywhere in the world, but in Zimbabwe’s capital city, those ordinary challenges are compounded by a tiered, informal transit network; high costs of getting around; rampant sexual and physical harassment from taxi and bus drivers alike; and the knowledge that, in the memories of most residents, Zimbabwe once had a functional, even robust, urban transit system.

As Zimbabwe celebrated its independence from British colonial rule on April 18, 1980, Julius Nyerere whispered to Robert Gabriel Mugabe, “You have inherited a jewel of Africa, don’t tarnish it.”

A well-connected and functional transportation system was one of the many elements that made Zimbabwe a jewel. And in pursuit of the promise not to tarnish that “jewel,” the Zanu PF and Mugabe government did invest in its infrastructure with a wide network of affordable trains and buses. In the years of political upheaval since, however, that system has become a mere mockery of its old self. The whistles of the trains that ferried urban locals from one point to the other have long been silent: The public trains once operated by the national railway no longer run. Even the formal public bus system no longer exists, and the roads that once carried those buses are deteriorating and difficult to navigate. That dilapidation carries a heavy cost particularly for women, and has affected how they travel within and around the city with their children and babies—issues that are compounded by class and inequality.

Read Maureen Sigauke’s full CityLabs article about the challenges of daily life in austerity Zimbabwe.

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Maureen Sigauke is an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. She tweets at @Maureenashleigh

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, the International Inequalities Institute, or the London School of Economics and Political Science.