Mutare is the name of Zimbabwe's third largest city after Harare and Bulawayo. Popularliry referred to in Zimbabwe as Kumakomoyo, this word depicts the city’s mountainous terrain giving it a unique distinction which makes it different from the rest of other cities in the country.
Mutare boasts not only of this unique geography, rather it has a diverse array of cultures, language, tradition and history which make it an interesting venture to write about, talk about and explore. The history of Mutare as a city offers the most valuable knowledge towards understanding its social and economic dynamics.
The name Mutare is a derivative of the local Shona word Utare which in the local manyika dialect refers to iron or gold. During the pre-colonial period the name was given to a river running adjacent with Tsambe River. It is believed this river had deposits of iron resulting in it being named Utare by the local Mutasa clan. Penhalonga Valley between these two rivers was thus associated with gold and iron deposits and this milieu resulted in the naming of the area to Utare and subsequently Mutare.
What we now know as the city of Mutare today emerged from a small Manyika speaking society under the leadership of Chief Mutasa. These people claim to have settled in the area for decades long before the Europeans set their feet. Their myths and oral traditions refer to their ancestral claims of the whole territory. This is contrary to popular belief that Mutare was first established by the Pioneer Column in 1890. Infact, the Pioneer Column did not see an empty space before them, but rather a fully functional indigenous Mutasa society with efficient political structures, a booming economy and thriving agriculture.
Growth of the Township
The coming of the Pioneer Column ushered in the establishment of the first European settlement between the Tsambe and Mutare Rivers. This settlement became to be known as Fort Umtali. This was the third settlement of the British Pioneer Column after the settlement of the Southern and Northern parts of present day Zimbabwe. By 1895 Mutare the British South Africa company had begun to establish itself through the erection of infrastructure. The township had developed as a market centre with four hotels, shops, banks, churches, schools and printing works. The laying of the railway line in 1895 gave the township a modern face which paved way for its industrial and demographic expansion.
With the granting of a municipality status on June 11 in 1914, Mutare became the third largest municipality after Salisbury and Bulawayo. The construction of residential and commercial infrastructure commenced around 1915 with the first batch comprising bachelors’ quarters in the present day Sakubva area for males most of whom were domestic and plantation workers. The establishment of a power station in 1922 ushered in the growth of small scale industries which focussed, by and large, in timber processing. These developments attracted the local indigenous populace to seek wage labour employment in the white dominated Umtali township. Thus there was a rampant population increase and by 1941, there were about 1 796 Africans living in the township. This phenomenal expansion in both population and infrastructure earned Umtali a city status in 1971. With the end of the colonial period, the city regained its indigenous name of Mutare shedding off the colonial tag of Umtali.
In 2010, a tender to upgrade the city's system was allegedly awarded to a company with no experience in major water infrastructure development. A US$330 000 deposit was paid to Shitazburg Enterprises which was awarded a US$660 000 tender to replace old and smaller pipes with larger ones in the Dangamvura water project. All this followed a 2009, Ministry of Finance advance of a US$3 million loan to Mutare City Council to finance water and sewer systems in high density areas. Part of the loan was earmarked to upgrade the Dangamvura high density area water infrastructure. After receiving the loan, the city fathers declared that the water problems would be solved within 12 months but eight years on, the company has failed to replace the pipes, neither has it refunded the US$330 000 paid as deposit.
The new mayor, Blessing Tandi, has maintained that Shitazburg Enterprises was corruptly awarded the lucrative tender. He said a councillor and two employees were implicated in corruptly awarding Shitazburg the tender. “The councillor (implicated in corruption) was reported to the Ministry (of Local Government) and was dismissed and two (council) officers were also charged and dismissed by council,” Tandi said.
In an interview, Councillor Exavia Upare, who chaired Mutare City Council’s procurement committee in 2010, was allegedly paid US$20 000 by Shitazburg Enterprises represented by its director Anderson Mwashita, to influence the tender in favour of his company. Upare denied the allegations, insisting that as the chairman of the city council procurement committee he did not have a final say on which company could be awarded a tender. But he admitted receiving US$20 000 from Shitazburg, which he claimed had nothing to do with the city council business. Upare would not reveal the nature of business he had done with Mwashita for which he was paid the US$20 000. In 2011, Upare was arrested and brought before Mutare Magistrate Court facing bribery charges arising from the tender issue. He was later dismissed as city councillor by the then Zimbabwe’s Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo. However, despite claiming his innocence, Mutare magistrate court found Shitazburg was also found guilty of fraud, in the tender deal. The company was fined US$500 plus restitution of US$300 000 to Mutare City Council but has since appealed against the lower court’s ruling at the High Court of Zimbabwe. The High Court has not yet sat to hear the case after initially throwing out the appeal for failing to submit his heads of arguments in time.
Edson Dube, programmes director, the United Mutare Residents Ratepayers Trust, alleged that some councillors and council officials got kick backs to award the tender to a company which had no capacity to provide the water pipes. Mayor Tandi revealed that the city was expecting a loan from the Ministry of Finance and African Development Bank, which after signing the tender processes for the project commences and expected completion date for the project is June 2020.” 
A meeting to celebrate World Radio Day commemorations was held in Mutare in February 2019, organised by the Mutare based Kumakomo Community Radio Station (KCRS) initiative, under the theme, “Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace.” Mayor Blessing Tandi, spoke. Radio to the people is necessary. However, the media should be impartial and put the interests of the community first. As media you should not abuse your powers as well but be apolitical, which is why community radios are important as they are not owned by government or private entities.” Radio serves as a more convenient information sharing platform citing that it was more popular and easily accessible than television because of its wide reach.
The licensing of community radio stations in Zimbabwe is provided for in the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), under a three-tier broadcasting system comprising, public, commercial and community broadcasting. Community radio stations are however still to be licensed and legally recognised in Zimbabwe since the enactment of the BSA in 2001. Currently, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has only licensed national and regional commercial and public radio stations. Successive ministers during the Robert Mugabe era refused to entertain discussions on licensing of community radio stations and maintained a repressive approach to media freedoms, but the new dispensation government has opened up to dialogue after the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Senator Monica Mutsvangwa last year revealed Government’s intentions to amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Broadcasting Services Act to accommodate the licensing of community radio stations among many other media reforms. In February 2019, Cabinet repealed AIPPA to align laws to the Constitution. The repeal of AIPPA will give rise to three legal instruments - the Access to Information Bill, the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Protection of Personal Information/Data Protection Bill.
KCRS coordinator Trevor Mtisi said since they acquired their deed of trust in 2006 they have been pushing for licensing but sadly can only operate through social media platforms, production of CDs with educative programmes and community outreach programmes. According to the independent media advocacy watchdog, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe, community radio stations are a necessity and the best medium that can promote culture and ethnic languages of marginalised communities. Zimunya’s Ward 32 councillor Herbert Gonyora encouraged communities to support community radio initiatives citing how they helped his ward to mainstream developmental issues and constructively debate on them. He also urged government to strongly consider licensing of community radio stations. 
At a community engagement meeting in September 2019, Mayor Blessing Tandi told residents
Mutare’s monthly water treatment bill had shot up from less than $200 000 in December last year to $1, 5 million in September, due to inflation. He said the proposed supplementary budget which will see tariffs going up by 400% was “painful but necessary” as it would cushion the council against hyperinflation, and the budget had been sent to Local Government Minister July Moyo for approval.
Council used to rely on industry for its revenue but due to the economic meltdown most companies have closed shop. Residents said the council should not over rely on rate payers for revenue but should instead embark on other income generating projects such as revamping and running its beerhalls in the high density suburbs like Sakubva and Dangamvura instead of leasing them to individuals. Tandi said to reduce the burden on ratepayers, the local authority would soon venture into income generating projects such as tourism to expand its revenue collection base. He said Dangamvura residents will have access to water by end of December next year. Mutare recently secured a US$400 000 loan from African Development Bank to improve the provision of water to residents. 
In March 2020, Mutare began a blitz on illegal vending to decongest market places as part of efforts to minimize human contact in the fight against the coronavirus. Mayor Blessing Tandi said it was given the authority through Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020, and urged citizens to be compliant. Flea markets at Motto-Motto, Chidzero, New Bar, Sakubva Flea Market and Meikles Park were closed down.
President Mnangagwa said food markets will remain open and movement will only be allowed with respect to the procurement of food, medicines or other necessities, but all non-essential services will be expected to completely cease operations. In addition to food markets, industries producing food, water and sanitary products would also be permitted to remain open. Only the state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) and government workers’ buses, will remain operational.
Labour and Economic Development Research Institute (LEDRIZ) economist Dr Prosper Chitambara says “The informal sector is characterized by serious decent work deficits. Decent work is productive work where the workers’ rights are protected, their jobs and their incomes are protected and their social standards maintained, but these do not apply in the informal sector. People will therefore starve if they go for 21 days without work as they rely on generating daily income for survival,” said Dr Chitambara. 
Speaking at a United Mutare Residents Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) meeting in May 2020, Mutare Mayor Blessing Tandi claimed that council’s resolutions to buy Mayor and Town Clerk Joshua Maligwa each a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado would improve the City’s status. He was also questioned on his attendance at numerous workshops at the expense of ratepayers. “The issue of vehicles will give status to the city, and workshops empower council with ideas.” A resident, John Zimunya, remarked, “The city’s status is not judged by the type of vehicles driven by the mayor and managers, but by the level of service delivery”. “On vehicles, our Mayor was very clear that it has nothing to do with service delivery, but their status,” remarked UMRRT programme director Edson Dube. 
The city of Mutare is the best for outdoor activities and retreat expeditions. The climatic environment offers a serene environment away from the buzzing noise city traffic and irritating industrial pollution of the urban areas. The mountainous terrain offers the best experience for the hiking fanatics. The Mutare National Museum offers a historical appreciation of the city through displays of artifacts. Lodges and hotels scattered all over the city gives presence a wide array of choice for the visitors. The most notable include the Leopard Rock Hotel, Holiday Inn Mutare, Troutbek Inn in and Juliasdale in Nyanga. There a number of game parks, unique views, leisure centres, botanical gardens and sites which offer a plethora of entertainment facilities for both locals and visitors.
Climate of Mutare
Mutare boasts of unique climatic conditions which are seldom found elsewhere in Zimbabwe. The savannah tropical climate consists largely of cold winters and warm summers. The winter season spans from early May to end of August. During this season, lowest temperatures are recorded. The coldest month in this regard is July with a minimum of 6 °C and a maximum The summer season in Mutare like in most parts of Zimbabwe spans from September to April. This is the season of the ‘sun and rains’. The months of September and October are the hottest with minimum temperatures averaging 16 °C and maximum often reaching 32 °C. The average rainfall is between 800mm and 850mm. Heavy rains are usually received between the months of December and January. The North Eastern winds which blow from the present day Mozambican areas usually results in precipitation. These climatic conditions have inevitably favoured the thriving of both exotic and indigenous botany forests and this has led to the common conception which identifies Mutare as the city of timber production.
Geography and Population
The geographical terrain of Mutare is breath-taking. Of the diverse geographical aspects of Mutare, the Christmas Pass stands as one of the most cherished not only by the outsiders but also to the locals who regularly visit the site to remind themselves of the beauty that surrounds them. The Christmas Pass view of the city provides the most spectacular bird’s eye view of the city. The Christmas Pass view is even more intriguing during the night; from the street lights, moving vehicle lights, domestic house lamps, to a burning cigarette in the streets of Mutare. It is a city swallowed up in a mountainous terrain and engulfed in trees. Housing a population of about 300 000, Mutare is home to several races and ethnic groups. It is in fact a multicultural home of the local Manyika people, the Zezuru of Mashonaland, the Ndau of Chipinge and surrounding areas, the Ndebele, neighbouring Mozambicans, Asians and Europeans. This population is spatially located in various suburbs of Mutare which include the high density areas of Dangamvura, Sakubva and Chikanga. The Central Business District is also surrounded by low density suburbs such as Morningside which accommodate a smaller proportion of the inhabitants.
The city of Mutare is also the capital of Manicaland province which includes district such as Buhera, Chipinge, Chimanimani, Rusape and Makoni. In the last decade, the city has become of strategic importance due to the discovery of diamonds at Chiadzwa and Marange. This has led to establishment of big multinational mining enterprises, refurbishment of roads, and establishment of an airport among other developments. The presence of numerous tourist resorts in the area and its proximity to the Nyanga Mountains make the city a place of perpetual economic and social interaction.
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