Johannes Bhanye is an emerging researcher and academic. He is currently a PhD student with the University of Zimbabwe, Center for Applied Social Sciences, under the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation PhD fellowship on ‘Mobility and Sociality in Africa’s Emerging Urban.’ His Doctoral study focuses on “The dynamics of migration and land entitlement among migrants in Zimbabwe’s peri-urban.” Johannes also holds a BSc (honours) degree in Rural and Urban Planning and MSc in Social Ecology from the University of Zimbabwe. His research interests cut across, land tenure, migration, urban informality, cities and social change and other development related topics in Africa.
Alternative institutions of securing space among migrants in the peri-urban: An ethnographic study of Malawian migrants in Zimbabwe
This paper focuses on how transnational migrants establish themselves in rough peri-urban spaces in destination countries. This aspect has remained unexplored in African urban research which has typically been overwhelmed with issues of process and consequences of migration. Data for this study was collected through ethnographic fieldwork among Malawian migrants in Zimbabwe’s peri-urban. The paper specifically focuses on how Malawian migrants proceed to access coveted land in the peri-urban dominated by the indigenes. The finding of the paper is that, Malawian migrants resort to alternative institutions in securing land in peri-urban spaces. Migrants resort to various social networks including kinship and fictive kinship to access land. As well, migrants turn to political patronage for land where they can build their shacks. Bizarrely, migrants also resort to the occult, a religious and ritual based form of authority that is associated with deathly symbols. Because it is feared by adherence and indigenes alike, the occult is able to yield and guarantee land to those seeking it in its name. Finally, migrants also resort to more confrontational strategies like land seizures to access land. This is often a measure of last resort, and it is important to note that when migrants do this, it is because they have run out of normal options to deal with their circumstances. Very often they are no formal institutions that they can turn to. Based on these observations, the paper concludes that, migrant communities are often not as dead places as they are often read in literature. Migrant communities emerge as dynamic spaces with novel forms of structures, networks and strategies that migrants turn to in accessing resources. Thus, beneath the semblance of chaos that characterizes migrant settlements, there is another different ‘world’; ordered and shared by those who constitute it.
Affiliation: University of Zimbabwe