The paper examines urban governance in the framework of sustainable urban development. It agrees with most analyses that sustainable settlements embrace social, ecological and economic dimensions. The discussion stresses that a form of governance that neglects any of these components cannot attain sustainability. It proceeds to show that in Harare, sustainability hinges very much on the role of the governance system, especially as it relates to urban poverty and the day-to-day survival of the urban poor. It is this role of urban governance that eventually manifests itself in the state of society, economy and the environment. The paper goes on to examine urban governance in Harare as it relates to urban poverty and the natural environment and pitches this against the search for the sustainable urban development. The paper argues that the achievement of sustainable cities depends on holistic governance and specific but co-ordinated strategies to address urban poverty, urban economies and the urban natural environment. The discussion concludes by suggesting that a system of governance which depends on "hooking" onto misunderstood fashionable concepts rather than definite policies and strategies ends up overemphasising one aspect at the expense of the others, resulting in a move away from sustainability.