Nobuhle Virgie Ngonyama
Bulawayo residents say they are outraged by the preliminary national population census figures released yesterday which show that the population in their city rose by only 12,000 over the past decade.
At a national level, Zimbabwe’s population has increased by 16,2% from the 2012 statistics of 13,1 million, and now stands at 15 178 979, according to data released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) yesterday.
The figures show that there are 665 940 people in Bulawayo as of 2022, up from 653 337 in 2012, an increase of 12 603.
Former radio broadcaster Ezra Tshisa Sibanda led the charge at ZimStat saying the statistics must be disputed. He would, however, not offer alternative data.
“The 2022 census results should be disputed. There is noway Bulawayo would have such low numbers considering the overcrowding in this City,” Sibanda said after the results were published.
“This is scandalous. Bulawayo has far more than a million people. Are these people serious that Harare population is four times that of Bulawayo?”
The preliminary results show that Harare province has the highest concentration at 16% of the total population in the country, followed by Manicaland and Mashonaland West provinces at 13,4% and 12,5%, respectively.
Another city resident, Laison Mwinde, also said he had misgivings about the figures.
“So they mean 12603 population increase for Bulawayo in 10 years, 1206 per year. 100 per month and 3 people per day? It can’t be!”
Others thought there was a hidden political agenda to suppress figures for the region in order to stiffle developmental support for Bulawayo.
Mkhululi Stewart said: “The numbers are being manipulated by greedy ones in order to cut short the budget allocation to Byo and divert it where they want. We need to have our strong political party with sound and policies that will represent us in Matebeleland.”
However, observers say the very marginal increase in Bulawayo population compared to the national average was due to migration to neighbouring Botswana and South Africa in search of better economic opportunities. For long, youths in the southern provinces have been migrating out soon after school.
Raising this point, Cynthia Ndlovu told HourlyHits that in a South African neighborhood where she resides, the population of Zimbabweans from Bulawayo had noticeably increased over the past two years as Zimbabwean economic situation worsened.
“Here in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, the population of my colleagues from Bulawayo has increased probably three times since I came here. The extra numbers must have come from somewhere!”
Ndlovu believes when undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa are deported as planned by that country’s Government end of this year, Bulawayo will see a “visible” population rise.
About 178,000 Zimbabweans in South Africa are at risk of being sent back home if they do not regularise their stay by end of the year.
Meanwhile, announcing the results in Harare yesterday, ZimStat director-general Taguma Mahonde said females constitute the majority of the population, numbering 7 889 421 or 52%, compared to the male population of 7 289 588 (48%).
The results give a sex ratio of 92 males for every 100 females.
The census results also reveal that more people in the country live in rural areas (61,4%) than in urban areas (38,6%).
Mahonde said Zimbabweans who were out of the country on the census “night” (midnight between August 17 and 18, 2022) were not counted, while foreigners who were in the country the same night were counted.
He said dissemination of more census results would be staggered in different modules categorised as demographic characteristics, housing characteristics and living conditions, functioning emigration, deaths, education, fertility and labour force.
The 2022 census, which ran from April 21 to 30, was Zimbabwe’s first digitised census.