That Zimbabwe, particularly its capital city Harare’s CBD, now resembles one major vending stall is symptomatic of how implausibly bad the country’s economic situation has become.
When you have a carbuncle, while it is important to get the pus extracted, what is even more important is establishing what caused the infection in the first place.
If Zimbabwe had a normal, competently run government, the country’s economy would be booming like that of other developing countries, and companies would not have closed down resulting in millions losing their jobs, leaving them with no choice but to vend for a living.
The deplorable state of the economy is what caused this country to be a nation of vendors. It was inevitable that the vendors had to eventually descend on Harare’s CBD, because that is where there is a ready market for their assortment of goods. In these hard economic times, and with so much competition, one has to engage aggressive methods in order to sell anything, and with almost every adult in the country vending one thing or the other, there is a real need for any serious vendor to be strategically positioned.
That the-powers-that-be are now ordering the vendors to leave the CDB and go to “designated vending stalls” is quite unfair. Just how many of these “designated” stalls are there? And are they big enough to accommodate all the vendors currently making their living in the CBD? And how conveniently accessible to the customers are these so-called designated stalls? All these are questions that concern the vendors as they have a bearing on whether they will continue making a living or not if they go along with these government plans.
Since it is now clear for everyone to see that the Zanu PF government has dismally failed to deliver on its promise to create two million jobs, the least it can do — as a show of sincerity — is make concerted efforts to regulate vending. I do not think vendors that are serious about their livelihoods would refuse to pay reasonable taxes or a fee if they are provided with sufficient vending stalls with ablution facilities established at convenient spots.
The government would do well to realise that given a better choice, not many people would ever opt for vending as a source of livelihood, especially the degreed youths that now sell on the streets. Nobody enjoys sitting on the streets bearing the vagaries of the weather all day long selling vegetables, airtime, groceries, etc. It is a last resort for many people whose government has let them down. If the Zanu PF government had delivered on those two million jobs it promised when it was desperate for votes, maybe the problem would not have catapulted to the current horrendous levels.
While it is a fact that we do have a serious problem there, kicking them out is not the solution. Like a friend mentioned to me, “Livelihoods must never be sacrificed at the altar of free walking space.”
In New York, I hear someone would be selling hotdogs in a cart in one corner, while another sells gyros in another, while yet another peddles belts and sunglasses, and so forth. If street vending is common even on New York streets where the economy is reasonably stable, what would you expect in Zimbabwe, a country with an economy in tatters?
What is needed is a wholesome solution that does not cost people their livelihoods. There is need to create a system that ensures vending in the CBD is done in an orderly fashion. The city council should provide space and should manage vendor distribution around the city corners in a manner that is satisfactory to them. Maintaining a clean city and sweeping the streets is council’s job and it is the failure of systems that lead to the commotion and filth. The campaign to keep the city clean is for every citizen and should not be blamed on vendors alone.
Above all, it is the responsibility of the Zanu PF government to come up with policies that encourage job creation.
With so little to build our livelihood on in this country, we should all love and appreciate the vendors because they are strong persevering people and no matter how hard things are, they are out there trying to make a living and not engaging in criminal activities, something that tends to happen when people are out of means to survive. For that reason, they need our support.