By LUSUGA KIRONDE, 12th November 2011 @ 11:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 1030
It was reported in the local press of November 4, 2011 that some 644 residents of the Magomeni Quarters in the City of Dar es Salaam had agreed to vacate these old colonial buildings, after their efforts to have the Quarters sold to them hit a brick wall, and after they had been paid some Tshs 676m as disturbance allowance to enable them to relocate to other areas and therefore pave way for the redevelopment of the area into modern high rise mixed developments.
The Quarters were dilapidated and were technically unfit for human habitation. They were sitting on very valuable public land, so they had to go. But as we may soon witness the demolition of these iconic buildings, we may ponder their history, for, they were significant in colonial housing policy.
By way of background information, the British Colonial Government in Tanganyika did not at first see it as its duty to house Natives (i.e. Africans). Besides, its land use and housing policy were both on a racial basis. Most urban areas including Dar es Salaam had three zones. Zone I for Europeans, zone II for commercial and residential uses (which was a cover-up ideology for Asians) and Zone II for Natives.
The acceptance of African Urban Housing was an offshoot of the acceptance of African labour as a permanent phenomenon in urban areas as compared to the earlier period when African labour was seen as casual and migratory and therefore entitled to just temporary shelter.
The second reason leading to the acceptance of African urban housing was to cultivate the goodwill of the Africans towards the colonial government, particularly after the labour disturbances of the 1940s, and in the light of the impending de-colonisation. There was a feeling among colonial officials that the Africans regarded the colonial government as uncaring, as far as their problems (including that of housing) were concerned.
A Memorandum on Housing in Dar es Salaam written for the Executive Council in the mid 1940s argued that the Government should put up 30 modern houses for Africans in Zone III of Dar es Salaam (Kariakoo) because (quote): “One of the difficulties at present in Zone III is that the African is convinced that the Government is not interested in his housing; this feeling makes for political unrest ... If the building of these 30 houses cost £12,000, it will be a cheap price to pay to preserve peace and good order in the African Community during the next five years” (end of quote).
Commenting on the necessity of the temporary African Housing Scheme in October 1947, the Provincial Commissioner, Eastern Province, impressed upon the Chief Secretary that (quote): “the scheme will have immense goodwill value and will convince many Africans that Government is making real effort to solve their present difficulties.” (end of quote) The third reason was to tackle overcrowding which was then rife in both Zones II (Upanga) and III.
In Zone III it was made worse by the influx of Asians who (illegally) took up the best properties that there were, and who could pay higher rent for any accommodation they desired. According to the Tanganyika Standard of February 15, 1945, Africans could hardly pay 10-15/- a month as rent for a room, while Asians were willing to pay 20/-.
A letter of February 5, 1 945, by the Honorary Secretary of the Tanganyika African Government Servants Association to the Chief Secretary complained of bad housing conditions for Africans pointing out that all good housing in the African quarter was being taken up by Asians, replacing Africans.
He suggested the provision of temporary housing for Government employees; the expulsion of Asians from the native area; the control of house rent in the native area and the provision to African employees, of "quarters". The Chief Secretary brushed these suggestions aside, but hoped that the then already sanctioned experimental programme for the construction of permanent houses for Africans would ease the situation somewhat.
The problem was formidable and growing, especially as a result of Dar es Salaam's rapid increase in population which had grown from 41,000 people in 1939 to 55,000 in 1945. The Government could no longer ignore this issue. There were various discussions and deliberations concerning the issue of African urban housing.
In October 1943, a meeting took place between various high ranking officials in the Tanganyika Government including the Chief Secretary, and Mr A.C. Jenkins, Director, Native Lands, Southern Rhodesia, who had studied native housing from Kenya southwards. Views were exchanged on the whole issue of native housing in Tanganyika.
It was agreed that Native housing in urban areas was desirable and that the problem of resources would soon be solved by the provisions of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. It was agreed to insert £2000 for an experimental native housing scheme in Dar es Salaam in the 1944 Territorial estimates.
In 1943 the Labour Office proposed the control of natives moving to Dar es Salaam, but at the same time urged the Township Authority to expand the native town and extend to it, medical, educational and recreational facilities (including a better and more hygienic native beer hall!) and to institute a proper native housing scheme.
Among the views circulated concerning the native housing scheme were those of Municipal Secretary, Dar es Salaam, E.H. Helps, who supported the idea of constructing "garden villages housing" for natives as was being advocated by one Mr Hutton who had designed and constructed a garden village in the Makongeni Area of Nairobi.
He suggested that Kariakoo should be re-laid piecemeal into a garden village. Besides accepting to construct completed houses, the government accepted to provide demarcated, and, hopefully, serviced plots, where Africans were to be encouraged to become house owners by constructing traditional or modern type houses.
Unlike the previous era, better amenities, i.e. roads, water supply, markets, schools, recreational grounds and so on were being stressed. It was also proposed to set up an African Housing Company to take up the functions of housing development from the central government.
The Company was never formed, though. Thus, African Urban Housing was conceived under three major concepts: the economic, the political and that of public health. These concepts affected the location of the earmarked African residential areas in Dar es Salaam. This background information is crucial in understanding the building of Magomeni and other “Quarters” (Ilala and Temeke) in Dar es Salaam during the colonial era (to be continued).
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