P 21

Urban Struggles in Africa

Panel abstract
Rapid urbanization, neo-liberal restructuring, and the planetization of slums frame connections and encounters between a variety of actors across the globe and in Africa. This panel is interested in two dominant agendas vis-à-vis rising urban poverty and inequality. One is epitomized by the development politics, top-down and SDG-driven, promoting concepts and visions of the sustainable, smart, and resilient city. The other agenda is advanced by various social movements which counter urban development planning, claiming equal access to resources, spatial justice, and the right to live. The panel is interested in the various connections between these two agendas in urban contexts. Hence, the urban arena stays here at the centre of attention where concepts, rationales, and visions of the equal, just, and/or emancipatory city evolve, compete, and challenge each other’s approaches, framing problems, solutions, struggles, solidarities, and creativities. Central questions for us relate to the kind of connections, encounters, in-dependencies, co-optations, and asymmetries which materializes in these arenas and forums, and which link the top-down and bottom-up takes on contemporary urban Africa in surprising ways.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 2 - 4 pm
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 202

Antje Daniel (University of Bayreuth)
Sandrine Gukelberger (University of Bochum)

Lamine Doumbia (German Historical Institute, Paris, France / Dakar, Senegal / University of Bayreuth)
Michael Braun (University of Toronto, Canada)
Daniel Tevera and Steven Jerie (University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa)
Davison Muchadenyika (University of Cape Town, South Africa)


Paper abstracts

Lamine Doumbia
City of Paper and Land Tenure from the Grassroots’ Perspective in Bamako

What do people from the grass roots do in a city like Bamako when they had once settled in the district of Sabalibougou (area of Bamako) using customary norms and regulation, but then got caught by the speed of the spatial expansion of the city, the latter using modern regulations of the state? In Bamako, different actors control and negotiate urban land tenure. Among them are not only state institutions, but also individuals who claim their own usufructs at the grass-roots level. Paperwork is central for all those actors. On the one hand, state institutions deliver land titles and produce administrative texts and laws. They claim to own, administer, and/or control the land. Moreover, they enforce their regulations by expropriating and displacing people for implementing urban ‘development’ plans. People on the grass-roots level, however, challenge and contest this policy. For a long time, researchers have considered bureaucracy in Mali as a product of French colonialism and the post-colonial state. This paper, however, argues that bureaucratic practices are part of many social processes in urban everyday life. Different associations in Bamako like the ‘Association des habitants de Salaibougou Est’ or ‘Jigi sigi ton’ have created the ‘Union et coordination d’associations pour la défense et le développement des droits des démunis’. These associations have an impact on bureaucratic practices that are introduced by the state but also produce their own highly bureaucratized social dynamics through reports, letters of protest, membership cards etc.

Michael Braun
Appropriating Urban Struggles? Opposition Party Mobilization in South African Townships

Located on the outskirts of urban areas, South African townships have long been sites of exclusion and poverty, while also demonstrating the ability to give rise to vibrant protest movements. In the early post-apartheid era, social movements coalesced around issues of electricity and water provision, housing, and anti-eviction campaigns which demanded that the dominant African National Congress (ANC) government takes concerted action to more quickly improve the lives of people living in these disadvantaged areas. These movements made attempts to scale-up to the regional or national level with the Anti-Privatization Forum and the Landless People’s Movement, but they were defunct by the early 2010s. It was in this context that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was formed in 2013 by dismissed former-ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who built the party around these same grievances in an attempt to mobilize the black working class. In this paper, I compare the mobilization and electoral performance of the EFF in individual urban wards to assess the extent to which the party has promoted urban struggles (with rhetoric or action) to build support for their political project. Drawing on interviews and observation of local EFF leaders conducted during the 2016 elections along with semi-structured interviews with local residents, I argue that the party has been most successful where it has taken leadership over ‘social movement issues’, challenging ANC dominance in the predominantly black townships by promoting land occupations, organizing protests, and taking direct action to improve water, electricity, or sanitation services.

Daniel Tevera and Steven Jerie
Local and Transnational Connections in Situations of Spatial Fluidity: What Can We Learn from the Experience of the Urban Informal Food System in Gweru, Zimbabwe?

This paper explores the ways in which informal food networks are helping to improve household food security in Zimbabwean cities. It focuses on how street food constitutes a site of struggle for the right to the city. We seek to locate the geographies of street food in the debate on urban informal foods systems by investigating the less understood flexibilities inherent in urban informal food distribution systems in terms of connecting: producers and consumers; rural and urban spaces; formal and informal sectors; local and transnational spaces; and private and public spaces. This paper is based on interviews with food vendors and consumers in Gweru, a provincial capital in Zimbabwe. It argues for an approach that allows us to think through the nature of our relationship to food in cities and how to reconceptualize the discourse on street food in ways that might help us to imagine an alternative logic about urban space, socio-spatial connections, and food in cities.

Davison Muchadenyika
Land, Politics, and Transparency in Cooperative Housing: the Urban Poor’s Struggles in Harare

Through cooperativism the urban poor are in struggles to reclaim and access urban land in Harare. This paper examines the urban poor housing struggles through the lens of politics and transparency in cooperative housing. In particular, the paper presents how party politics was used as an opportunity to access housing land through cooperatives. On the other hand, politics became a convenient tool for non-transparency thus retarding the prospects of cooperative housing. Through party politics and informal power networks, cooperative leaders and political elites became de facto local authorities. In the process, formal institutions such as the City of Harare lost control over planning and housing within the city. I conclude that the use of informal institutions and informal networks of power distort the intentions of a progressive co-operative policy.