Did You Know How These Suburbs In Harare Came To Be…

Harare, formerly Salisbury, has a great history if someone takes the time to do their research. Starting with the ‘Pioneer Column’ in the late 1800s, this was a group of two hundred men recruited from many trades and professionals who were escorted by a police force of 500 men. On their arrival at their destination the Pioneer Corps was free to scatter and prospect for minerals and find other means of livelihood. The pioneer column left Tuli on 11 July 1890 and reached its destination, 20 km from Mount Hampden, on 12 September 1890 and named the place Fort Salisbury.

Various suburbs cropped up after that, and here are just a few and how they came into being. What area did you grow up in?

Alexandra Park:

A low-density, leafy residential suburb in the north of Harare. The suburb was originally set-up after WWII. The government of the time promised servicemen plots of half-acre land once the war was over, and Alex Park was one of the suburbs in which this land was allocated. Many of the street names reflect significant places or people involved in WWII such as Churchill Avenue, Dunkirk Drive or Normandy Road.


A suburb of Harare located about 2 miles north of Harare city center. It is the earliest suburb established in Harare, having been laid out in 1903. Prior to becoming a suburb, Avondale was a dairy farm. It was named after Avondale, County Wicklow, Ireland – the home of 19th-century Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell. Avondale was incorporated into the Salisbury Municipality in 1934. The first official marriage ceremony in colonial Rhodesia took place on Avondale farm in 1894.

Emerald Hill:

A north-western suburb of Harare, named so because of either (A) the green color of the hill due to the large number of trees or (B) a possible Irish connection – many of the roads in the suburb have Irish names.


The second-oldest high-density suburb (“township”) in Harare, established c. 1930. It was established for black settlement during the colonial Rhodesia era. Highfield was primarily set up by the white settler colonial government to provide labour to the Southerton and Workington industrial areas that border it; this was in a similar fashion to how Harari (Mbare) had been set up to provide labor to Workington and Graniteside.


In 1892 Edward Walter Kermode claimed a farm and registered it as “Spring Valley Range”. He arrived in the country from the Isle of Man with the pioneer column as a personal servant of Archibald Calqhoun, the country’s first administrator. Shortly after registering the farm, in 1895, Kermode returned to the Isle of Man where he married. Mabelreign was named after Miss Mabel Mann, who was a fiancee of a surveyor named Swatheral. Miss Mann laid claim to the land despite the fact that the title was already held, and apparently she got away with it.


The origins of the name “Mabvuku” are not very certain. Possibly from the Shona “bvuku”, ideophone for “emerging”, to denote the water sprouting out of the numerous swamps in the area. Ma (“place of”) + bvuku (“emerging waters”) is a plausible etymology. Mabvuku was the home of the VaShawasha people before colonization. The Shawasha people of the Soko Mbire clan settled in this area about 300 years ago. Mabvuku, as opposed to the present day site of Chishawasha, is the native home of these people. The present site of Chishawasha village became prominent with the establishment of the oldest Catholic Mission Church there. The ancestors of the Shawasha people are commemorated in the street and road names of Old Mabvuku, namely, Tingini, Godzonga, Marembo, Chauruka, Nyamare, Nyahuni, Chatezwi, Nzvere and Shambare.


This was Salisbury’s first high-density suburb (“township”) and was established in 1907. At the time, it was located near the city sewage works, cemetery and abattoir. Its original name was Harare (Hariri) Township, but the suburb’s name was changed to Mbare when the city of Salisbury was re-named Harare at Zimbabwe independence in 1980. Harare is a corruption of of Haarari, which means “One who never sleeps”, and was the name of the Zezuru Chief of this north-eastern part of the country, a Chief Harawa who had his base at the Harare Kopje, a walking distance from Mbare.


A residential suburb in the south of Harare. The neighbourhoods within Waterfalls are Derbyshire, Grobbie Park, Houghton Park, Induna Park, Midlands, Mainway Meadows, Malvern (named after Sir Godfrey Huggins, who later became Lord Malvern), Parktown, Uplands and Shortstone. The suburb was named after the rapids on the Mukuvisi River which flows through the Houghton Park-Parktown areas.