The decision by President Robert Mugabe to have the police clear out vendors eking out a living in Harare’s streets illegally will likely open a can of worms.
While it is not a secret that vendors, who had taken up almost every open space, including pavements in the city centre, have made Harare’s central business district (CBD) an eyesore, one wonders if this was the best way to deal with the problem.
We are all aware that the majority of the population is now surviving on vending, and there has always been need to provide requisite infrastructure to ensure that the vendors carry out their business without violating city by-laws.
Vending in Zimbabwe has become common as a result of the deepening economic crisis reflected in the high unemployment rate.
This makes their arrest over the last two days sad. It’s almost like their fight for survival has been criminalised.
The challenge of the government is that it always has a knack of putting the cart before the horse.
A government that knows what it is doing would start by ensuring the availability of proper, adequate and serviced places from where the vendors can carry out their business. It is prudent to avail such spaces in strategic areas within the CBD.
Over the last two days, anti-riot police details have been patrolling the streets to make sure that the vendors would not resurface, but one can only wonder for how long will they be “stationed” in the street.
This points to the fact that this is not a viable strategy. All stakeholders need to sit down and strategise on the best way to accommodate the vendors and ensure that they create a win-win situation.
Mugabe cannot afford to have such a large portion of the population angry ahead of next year’s crucial elections. They must make this right as soon as possible.
It is not ironic that when Mugabe was challenged on his 2,2 million jobs election gimmick, he conveniently stated that the country had created millions of jobs in the informal sector which needed to be formlised.
Therefore, this action to violently remove vendors form their selling points exposes Mugabe’s double speak. We knew all along that he was speaking with a forked tongue. Now he must carry his own cross come elections.
Perhaps the action of removing vendors from their selling points is key to his removal from power. Mugabe and his party’s intransigence is nauseating as his actions are tantamount to destroying their livelihood.