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Moving to a smaller town from Harare
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Moving to a smaller town from Harare

In all our past discussions about living in Zimbabwe, we have taken it for granted that you have a binary choice. That is you either live in an urban area or you live in a rural area. For urban areas, I have sort of implied that you would be living in Harare and have used the capital city in most of my articles. I might not have mentioned this explicitly sometimes but that city, my city, was always at the back of my mind.

The reality is very different from this. While just under 1.5 million people call Zimbabwe’s capital city home, myself included, there are naturally other cities and towns around the country. For example, there are ten provinces in Zimbabwe including Harare and each of these has an urban capital. Most of these capitals are cities with some qualifying as towns. There are also a lot of mining, tourist and industrial towns around the country. Each of these has a healthy thriving population and its own pull and push factors that you might want to consider before just blindingly reaching for the capital.

In this series, I will attempt to do the impossible. I will be looking at all the most iconic towns and cities around Zimbabwe, their rich history, in brief, the most important new and established suburbs that you might want to consider if you want to settle in these towns, what the amenities are like, the general rental and house ownership outlook, what the houses cost in high, middle and low-density suburbs compared to Harare, the stand sizes compared to Harare as well as other push and pull factors that might draw you or push you away from said town or city.

One big advantage of PropertyBook being one of the largest online real estate listing platforms in the country is that we are privy to this data which this series of articles will turn into information. In addition to the above, we will sometimes make the assumption that you want to move, as a family, away from Harare. I will present your transport options too. Most people tend to just look at lorries and trucks and ignore very cheap viable alternatives such as the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The country’s railway operator might not have shiny trains or still be the pride of the country but it’s still a formidable affordable workhorse.

Why the series?

This series of articles was inspired by my former boss and mentor who recently made the bold journey from Harare to Bulawayo this past year. He and his wife had had enough of the capital and decided to courageously uproot their entire family from the capital and have been happily living in the country’s second-largest city for the past six months. I have been on his case and listening carefully to his experiences, the good and the bad, challenges and downright nightmares.

Some of the reasons for the move according to him were:

  • The capital city does feel crowded in a lot of converted neighbourhoods in comparison to Bulawayo while not being much smaller does feel less populated at least to him.

  • Traffic is a nightmare in the capital and his school runs were horrors shows that often involved incidents of road rage and sometimes nasty accidents.

  • Getting his kids into schools near home was a nightmare as coveted schools were often full and transferring was not possible. This means you either had to choose your house based on the school your children go to or risk doing a school run that involved passing through town during rush hour. He lived in Ruwa and Chitungwiza at one point while his kids attended Avondale Primary. That’s as nightmarish as it gets in terms of making school runs.

  • Like myself he and his wife work from home so they could work from Antarctica if they had good internet and nothing would change. So work was not an impediment to them moving to another town. All they needed was a house with good internet. Lots of neighbourhoods have fibre or WibroniX in Bulawayo. They found a house with fibre.

  • Schools are less crowded so getting places for their kids was not an issue.

  • Then there is the big matter of cost. Rentals were much cheaper and so were house prices too. That was a massive saving on their costs.

  • Schools were cheaper too compared to their equivalents in Harare

  • According to him, the roads are better too.

  • The water situation in Bulawayo was better than all the neighbourhoods he had lived in Harare/Chitungwiza or Ruwa. Here it was either you needed a solar borehole or you were in trouble.

The move was like a rose smelling experience. There are lots of pull factors to Bulawayo but there were prickly thorns along the way too and that is something that anyone who intends to make the move will eventually realise.

  • The initial upfront cost of making the move is massive. You will have to pack up your furniture and household items into a lorry. Drive them to NRZ where they will be bundled on a train. Drive to Bulawayo, wait for the items, unload them into another lorry and drive them to your new home. Things get weird and even more expensive if you are going to a town that is away from the country’s transport arteries. Bindura is closer to Harare for example but thanks to there being no trains you might actually end up paying more in transport costs than Bulawayo.

  • Looking for a house in an unfamiliar town can be hard and confusing.

  • Such a move might mean you moving away from your extended family. They might not understand such “stupidity” and it can lead to tensions and isolation as you live on your own in a faraway city.

  • There is always the language barrier. This guy does not speak a word of Ndebele-even Shona is not his mother’s tongue. While most people in Bulawayo do understand Shona and sometimes speak it well, most of them are miffed when someone speaks to them in anything other than Ndebele in their own time. 

  • Language issues at church. When the priest/pastor/preacher just switches into Ndebele without warning you are suddenly left stranded.

  • Lack of some amenities we take for granted in Harare. While the capital has good internet and mobile network coverage you get the famous Edge symbol on the outskirts of Bulawayo and most Zimbabwean towns.

  • Excessive load-shedding and delayed fault attendance when you compare to Harare.

  • Getting homesick. According to him, it’s like you are trying to kick off a nasty drug habit sometimes. You wake up one morning with an overwhelming desire to visit Eastgate, Joina or Gulf Complex but instead of them being 20-30 minutes away they are now 8 hours away.

He is not the only one who has made the move. A lot of the people I went to high school and University with have all moved to different towns and have shared their experiences with me. We will try to look at each one of the major towns and talk about some of the experiences of moving there and what drew these people there in addition to the purely real estate stuff above.

See you along the way.

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