BY SILAS NKALA ZIMBABWE National Statistics (Zimstat) preliminary census figures showing little population growth in Matabeleland compared to other provinces has been dismissed by critics as deliberately ‘cooked’ to deny the region a slice of the national cake.
The results indicated that only Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South have failed to breach the one million population mark in a decade.
According to Zimstat, Harare has a population of 2,427,209, Manicaland (2,037,762,) Mashonaland West (1,893,578), Midlands ( 1, 8811 908), Mashonaland East (1,731,181) Masvingo (1,638,539) and Mashonaland Central 1,384,891.
Matabeleland North has a population of 827,626, Matabeleland South 760,345 and Bulawayo 665,940.
The Bulawayo City Council has for years disputed census statistics saying the city has a population of less than one million.
Council insists the city’s population stands at over 1.3 million people.
According to Zimstat, in Matobo’s ward 20 in Matabeleland South there were no females but only 85 males.
The revelation raised an alarm, but Zimstat issued a statement saying the place has no permanent residents.
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“Ward 20 in Matobo falls in the area called Emlageni along Shashe River. It is council land with no permanent residents,” Zimstat said.
“Residents from neighbouring communal areas practice partial nomadic life.
“When feed for their animals diminishes in their usual areas of habitation, some locals take their animals to ward 20 for grazing.
“They put up temporary structures as shelter.
“They will reside in this area for months and then go back to their usual places of residence when summer sets in.”
But activist Artwell Sibanda said revelations that Bulawayo only recorded a population growth of 10,265 since 2012 were alarming.
In 2002, Bulawayo’s population stood at 676,650 and 655 675 in 2012.
“If this figure is all about new births, it means we had 85 births per month and this translates to about 1,000 births per year!” Sibanda said.
“This is ridiculous to say the least.
“If my memory serves me well, Bulawayo recorded about 26 births on Valentine’s Day and someone somewhere thinks we are stupid to believe the 85 births per month.
“So many people have migrated from other parts of the country to Bulawayo and we have seen a large settlement emerging in Cowdray Park, a suburb that is said to have the second highest number of dwellers in the country.”
Sibanda added: “Someone just asked me how many school girls fell pregnant during the heavy lockdown period?
“Can our maternity hospitals and clinics provide us with the statistics of live births during the course of the year?”
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights Cordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said they have written to Zimstat demanding answers.
“The information of migration is very critical,” Maphosa said.
“It is a critical human right and critical service delivery kind of statistical report that when presented it should be in a manner that helps all different players in development and service delivery in Zimbabwe.
“There is a question they were asking about the number of people outside the country in households during enumeration.
“We were expecting that the preliminary results will show us that per each ward how many people were documented, who are outside the country and how many are inside the country in the ward.
Ibhetshu likaZulu coordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo said the figures were not a true reflection of the population in Matabeleland.
Labour activist Percy Mcijo said: “If there could be an independent credible way of coming up with the population figures for the whole country then people could be convinced that those are the true figures.
“It has been observed over all the past years of independence that population figures have been used to justify some forms of marginalisation of some regions with low population figures and that cannot be ruled out in the current scenario.”
Former MDC legislator Norman Mpofu dismissed the preliminary census results as ‘cooked’.
“In the past migration has been used to explain low population growth of Matabeleland,” Mpofu said.
“The same can no longer be the case as the exodus is now national. Census in Zimbabwe is politics.
“It is a tool used to short-change Matabeleland when it comes to allocation of resources. Matabeleland has been rigged once more.”
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association chairman Ambrose Sibindi said their own survey showed that the city’s population stood at over 1.5million.
“Our survey shows that out of ten houses in Bulawayo, almost half of those houses have lodgers showing population growth,” Sibindi said.
“Even if you look at council housing accommodation, registration figures are ballooning.
“And for Zimstat to say the population has remained stagnant is shocking.”
No response could be obtained from Zimstat.