Contesting space in urban Malawi : a lefebvrian analysis

Mwathunga, Evance Evan
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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Cities in Malawi continue to be sites and spaces of resistance, struggle and contest over urban spaces. Since the introduction of colonial modernist planning with its adherence to segregation through functional zoning, homogenisation, and fragmentation of urban areas, squatting and land invasions on urban land have remained one of the widespread struggles for space in urban Malawi. Continued occurrence of squatting, land invasions, and encroachments on urban land reflect the inability of urban planning and its attendant land policies to provide land and housing to the majority of urban dwellers mainly the middle income as well as the marginalised urban poor. Over the years, government efforts have not decisively addressed the issue of land contestations in urban areas in spite of numerous reports of increasing cases of conflicts and competing claims over urban land in Malawi including land dispossessions, conflicts over land uses in urban and peri-urban areas and most significantly contestations manifested in squatting and land invasions on state land leading to growth of spontaneous settlements. In urban areas, efforts to address these competitions have included relocation; titling programmes, sites-and-services schemes, land reform programmes, and forced evictions, but struggles such as squatting and land invasions persist. In urban Malawi, the question is: why is urban planning, as it is conceived and acted upon (i.e. as mode of thought and spatial practice), a creator and not a mediator of urban land conflicts? The study aimed to answer this question, by using Lefebvre’s conceptual triad of social production of space, to gain an in-depth understanding of how the contradictions between people’s perceptions and daily life practices in relation to space, on one hand, and planner’s conceptions of space as informed by colonial, post-colonial, and neoliberal perceptions of space, generate perpetual struggle for urban space in Malawi. The study also investigated spatial strategies and tactics which urban residents employ to shape, produce and defend urban spaces from possible repossession by the state. Finally, the study explored lived experiences and the multiple meanings that urban residents attach to spaces they inhabit and these are used to contest imposition of space by state authorities while at the same time to produce their own spaces. Mixed method approaches were used to gather geodata, quantitative and qualitative data in the two neighbourhoods of Soche West (Blantyre city) and Area 49 (Lilongwe city) where there are on-going tensions over land between state authorities and urban residents. Primary sources of data included household surveys, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, documentary sources, observations, and electronic and print media. In view of the magnitude of the data, three software were used namely, SPSS, ATLAS.ti, and ArcGIS 9.3TM GIS for quantitative, qualitative, and spatial data respectively. Content and discourse analysis were also used to analyse government documents and newspapers. The research found that although planning thought and practice is dominated by imported modernist conceptions of space, planning authorities in Malawi are unable to impose this space on urban residents. Specifically, the research identified a number of constraints faced by planning authorities ranging from human and technical capacity, corruption, cumbersome and bureaucratic procedures, archaic, rigid and contradictory in laws and policies, complexity of land rights, poor enforcement, political influence and emergence of democracy, incomplete reclassification of rural authority into urban authority and shortage of financing mechanisms. In view of these state incapacities coupled with peoples’s perception of the illegitimacy of the state to control urban land, the study found that ‘dobadobas’ (that is middlemen, conmen and tricksters) have taken over to contest planning practices of the state by employing both violent and non-violent spatial tactics to appropriate, and defend their claim for urban spaces, thereby generating conflicts between the state and users of space. Consistent with our argument regarding representations of spaces and representational spaces, the research found that in both Lilongwe and Blantyre cities, the multiple meanings attached to spaces represent divergent but true lived experiences that involve different core values that may or may not be recognised by those residents who do not share them. Finally, planners, therefore, have to reconcile the contradictions between planners’ visions and the experiences of those who experience the city in their everyday life. By way of recommendation, planners, therefore, have to reconcile the contradictions between planners’ visions and the experiences of those who live in the city. Planners’ emphasis on abstract spaces and their modernist images of order imply that viable alternative place-making processes are not well understood, partially because formal discourse in planning and place-making revolves around largely iterative representations of space and the persuasive capacities of one or another representation. Rather, this researcher recommends continued use of the conceptual triad to enable researchers to become more fully aware of complexity in the human dimensions of space before planning. In the same way, by focusing on the two neighbourhoods, the researcher recommends that planning requires considerable time and effort and that it should priotise the human or the micro scale. Planning ought to bring on board the multiple meanings of space as discussed in the study as these are the multiple dimensions that planning has to grapple with in its quest to organise and produce urban space. Since space is never empty as it always embodies meaning, it is imperative to understand various meanings that people attach to the spaces they inhabit and their attachment to these spaces. In the study the fact that spaces carry multiple meanings encompassing exchange value, use value, emotional value, historical value, and sacred values among others, has been explored. Continued advancement of colonial modernist conceptions of orderliness, segregation, functional zoning and commodification which are constructed largely, by dominant economic and political elites, provokes resistance by groups who defend and seek to reconstruct lived space. Also, in view of the incapacity of the state to impose its conceptions of urban space through spatial practice of planning, urban residents continue to devise their own spatial strategies and tactics violent and nonviolent, to shape their own space. In conclusion, the paper stresses that spaces are not exclusively shaped or moulded by planners and planning practices of the state only, but also by spatial practices of everyday life albeit clandestine and unofficial. In this regard, in Malawi, cities including the post-colonial city of Lilongwe should not be understood as being shaped by planners’ space only but also the changing experiences of the city and everyday life and ambiguities of the users of urban space. Thus plans and documents as conceived spaces should not be understood as the only mechanism to shape and organise urban space but also the changing experiences of the city and everyday life and ambiguities of the users of urban space.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Stede in Malawi is nog steeds plekke en ruimtes waar daar weerstand, worsteling, en konflik i.v.m. grond plaasvind. Sedert die invoer van koloniale, modernistiese beplanning wat assosieer word met segregasie deur middel van funksionele streekindeling, homogenisasie,en fragmentasie van stadsgebied, is plakkery en beslaglê op grond in stede algemeen in die stede van Malawi. Die aanhoudendende voorkoms van plakkery, indringing en oortreding op grond reflekteer die die onvermoë van stedelike beplanning en grond beleid om grond en behuising aan die meerderheid van die stedelike burgers , meestal die middelinkomste klas en die gemarginaliseerde stedelike armes te verskaf. Die regering het nie oor die jare daarin geslaag om die kwessie van konflik oor grond in stedelike areas suksesvol aan te spreek nie, dit ten spite van die feit dat daar toenemend meer gevalle van konflik en meededingende grondeise bestaan, asook onteiening in stedelike en omstedelike gebiede. Hierdie konflikte manifesteer in plakkery en indringery in staatsgrond wat lei tot die totstandkoming van nie-amptelike nedersettings. In stedelike gebiede het pogings om hierdie kwessies aan te spreek gelei tot onteiening,eiendomsreg-programme, grondhervormings-programme, gedwonge uitsettings, asook gebiede waar daar net grond en dienste verskaf word. Nogtans vind daar plakkery en indringing plaas. Met betrekking tot stedelike Malawi is die vraag: Hoekom is stedelike beplanning soos dit begryp word (d.w.s. as ’n denkwyse en ruimte-praktyk) die skepper en nie die bemiddelaar van konflik oor grond in stede nie? Daar is gepoog om hierdie vraag te beantwoord deur gebruik te maak van Lefebvre se drieledige konsep van die produksie van ruimte, om sodoende ’n in-diepte begrip te verkry van die teenstellings tussen mense se konsepsies en alledaagse praktyke met betrekking tot ruimte, en die beplanners se konsepte van ruimte wat die gevolg is van koloniale, post-koloniale en neoliberale sienings, en hoe dit lei tot ’n aanhoudende konflik oor stedelike grondgebied in Malawi. Strategieë en taktieke wat deur inwoners gebruik word om ruimte te skep en te verdedig teen moontlike onteiening deur die staat, word ondersoek. Laastens word die lewende ondervindings van die stadsbewoners ondersoek, asook die veelvoudige betekenisse wat hulle heg aan die ruimtes wat hulle bewoon. Hoe hulle hierdie betekenisse gebruik om die oorname van hierdie spasies deur die staat, te beveg en terselfdertyd hulle eie ruimtes te skep. Die gemengde-metode benadering is gebruik om geodata, kwantitatiewe en kwalitatiewe data in die twee buurtes van Soche West (Blantyre ) en Area 49 (Lilongwe ) waar daar aanhoudende spanning oor grond tussen die staat en die stadsbewoners is, aan te spreek. Primêre bronne van data sluit huishoudelike opnames, fokus groepbesprekings, sleutelinformant onderhoude, dokumentêre bronne, observasie,en elektroniese en gedrukte media in. Omdat daar so baie data is, is drie sagtewares, naamlik SPSS, ATLAS.ti, and ArcGIS 9.3TM GIS gebruik vir die ontleding van kwantitiewe, kwalitatiewe en ruimtelike data onderskeidelik. Inhouds- en diskoers analise is ook gedoen om die regeringsdokumente en koerantartikels te ontleed. Daar is gevind dat alhoewel beplanningsdenke en –praktyk oorheers word deur ingevoerde, modernistiese konsepte van ruimtes, kry die owerhede dit nie reg om die bewoners te oorreed om hulle siening van stedelike ruimte te aanvaar nie. Daar is tydens die navorsing bevind dat die owerhede die volgende kwessies moet aanspreek: menslike en tegniese bekwaamdede, korrupsie, lomp burokratiese prosedures, uitgediende en weersprekende wette en beleide, die kompleksiteit van grondregte, swak toepassing van wette, politieke invloed, en die opkoms van die demokrasie, onvoltooide reklassifikasiwe van landelike owerhede, en ’n tekort aan finanseringsmeganismes. Die staat se onbekwaamheid tesame met die mense se persepsie dat die staat nie volgens wet stedelike grond kan beheer nie, het gelei daartoe dat Doba Dobas (d.w.s. die middelman, en die skelms) die beplanning van konflik oorgeneem het en geweldadige en nie-geweldadige taktiek gebruik om grond te bekom en te verdedig, en sodoende konflik tussen die staat en die mense laat toeneem. Daar kan gesê word dat in beide Lilongwe en Blantyre die veelvoudige betekenisse wat aan ruimte geheg word, die werklike ondervindinge van die mense verteenwoordig. Hierdie ondervindings behels verskillende kernwaardes wat dalk nie deur ander gedeel word nie. Dit bevestig ook Lefebvre se argumente oor die ruimtes. Laastens moet die beplanners die beplanners se toekomsplanne en die alledaagse ondervindings van die burgers, versoen. Daar word dus aanbeveel dat die beplanners die klem op abstrakte ruimtes en die modernistiese beeld van orde moet versoen met die ondervindings van diegene wat in die stad woon. Die beplanners se klem op abstakte ruimtes en hulle modernistiese beeld van orde impliseer dat lewensvatbare alternatiewe plekmaak prosesse nie goed verstaan word nie, gedeeltelik omdat die formele diskoers in beplanning en plekmaak grootliks draai om herhaaldelike voorstellings van ruimte en die oorrredingskrag van die een of ander voorstelling. Hierdie navorser stel voor dat Lefebvre se drie konsepte liewer gebruik moet word om dit vir navorsers moontlik te maak om voor beplanners bewus te word van die kompleksiteit van die menslike dimensies van ruimte, Nadat hy gefokus het op die twee stede, besef die navorse dat beplanning baie tyd en moeite behels en dat die menslike of die mikroskaal voorrang moet geniet. Die veelvoudige betekenisse van ruimte, soos bespreek, moet in ag geneem word tydens die organiseer en skep van stedelike ruimte. Aangesien ruimte nooit leeg is nie en altyd betekenis het, is dit belangrik om die verskillende betekenisse wat mense aan die plekke waar hulle bly heg, te verstaan, asook hulle gehegtheid aan hierdie plekke. In hierdie studie word die verskillende betekenisse van ruimte, naamlik ruilwaarde, gebruikwaarde, emosionele waarde, historiese waarde, en gewyde waarde. Die bevordering van koloniale.modernistiese konsepte van orde, segregasie, funksionele sonering en kommodifikasie,. grootliks deur die dominante ekonomiese en politiese elite, lei tot weerstand deur groepe wat die ruimtes waarin hulle lewe wil verdedig en rekonstrueer. Omdat die staat nie deur middel van die ruimtelike praktyke van beplanning, sy siening van stedelike ruimte aan die bewoners kan oordra nie, hou die stedelike bewoners aan om hulle strategieë en taktieke, geweldadig en nie-geweldadig, te gebruik, om hul eie ruimtes te skep. Ten slotte word daar tot die slotsom gekom dat ruimte nie eksklusief deur beplanners geskep word nie, maar deur die praktyke van die alledaagse lewe, al is dit ongeoorloofd en nieamptelik. Die stede in Malawi, insluitende die post-koloniale stad, Lilongwe, moet nie beskou word as gevorm alleenlik deur die stadsbeplanners nie, maar ook deur die veranderende ondervindings van die stad en die alledaagse lewe en die dubbelsinnigheid van die gebruikers van stedelike ruimte. Planne en dokumente moet dus nie gesien word as die enigste meganisme wat stedelike ruimte vorm en organiseer nie.
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.
Dissertations -- Geography and environmental studies, Theses -- Geography and environmental studies, Cities and towns -- Malawi, City planning -- Malawi, Land use, Urban -- Malawi, Land use, Urban -- Public opinion -- Malawi, UCTD