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Blitz on vendors an exercise in futility


IT is part of ancient wisdom that the celebrated definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting different results.

By now, any person who thinks justly would have seen the futility in the now monotonous grind of blitzes on vendors.

The previous administration of President Robert Mugabe, manifestly bereft of ideas, dismally failed to resolve the issue of vendors who have flooded the streets of urban areas.

The only known tool of the Mugabe regime was violence. Week in week out, we saw Sten Zvorwadza, chairman of the National Vendors Association of Zimbabwe (Navuz), and many others being brutally assaulted and bundled into council vehicles.

We have witnessed the movie-like collisions of vehicles in the CBD as marauding council vehicles chase vendors.

Innocent business owners have had their properties stoned as vendors protest their arrests.

Council officers have become the target of attacks from vendors. Some have been hospitalised following the clashes.

Lives of bystanders have been lost and continue to be jeopardised as the futile war between council and vendors rages on.

Now, the question is: Will the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa continue down this injudicious path?

Is the new government alive to the damage it is inflicting upon itself by hunting down the people who were instrumental in the epic fall of the Mugabe dictatorship?

Is Mnangagwa prescribing the same violent tonic for the vendor problem as Mugabe did or he has other means?

This may not be clear as yet, but what we see in this post-Mugabe era is apathetic. Lethargy in this matter won’t aid matters; it’s time to deal decisively with the impasse between vendors and council.

The new President has been widely quoted as saying that the voice of the people is the voice of God; the situation besetting the vendor problem is no different.

These are honest men and women impoverished and crying out to make an honest living.

I am fully confident that any reasonable Zimbabwean can attest to the fact that the bulk of Zimbabweans are vendors, not by design but by default. A glance at the unemployment statistics in Zimbabwe preaches an eloquent sermon about the situation.

Deductive reasoning would define the situation with ease. One may want to ask themselves how many vendors the country had in the streets before the nearly two decades-old economic paralysis.

Zimbabweans have been thrown in the deep end and the onus is on a sensitive government to handle the situation empathetically.

Surely, we cannot ignore or feign blindness to what is obvious.

The truth of the matter is that poor governance of Zanu PF under Mugabe created the mass of vendors we see in the streets.

The filling-up of cities with vendors can be squarely traced to failed economic policies by Mugabe.

It is simple: Without employment, people will vend. The imposing presence of vendors in the streets of Harare is a consequence, not a function. It is an effect, not a cause; the cause is skewed governance.

It is imperative for Mnangagwa not to be seen to be perpetuating the mounds of rot left by Robert Mugabe.

The former President employed violence with no remedy to the problem. If anything, Mugabe’s use of force only helped embolden the resilience of the vendor.

The present government must therefore give an ear to the voice of the people which is presumably the voice of God.

Vendors are not some societal malcontents; vendors are genuine people of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who have poured into the streets of Harare in order to eke out an honest living.

They are a people striving to live justly under the created incapacitating circumstances.

Harassing and haranguing vendors, as a remedy, has now been prescribed for the umpteenth time with derisory failure.

History has recorded in the last few years that a blitz on vendors may last, but not for over two weeks.

As Navuz chairman, Zvorwadza, put it last week, vendors are prepared to die in the streets; they have no alternative and the result is the same.

If there is one thing that the government should have learnt by now it is that without proper management and engagement of the vendor himself, the story will remain the same, only different years.

Early in 2014, a similar blitz was carried out and vendors were hounded out of the streets only to steadily fill up again.
Subsequent blitzes were to follow in the succeeding years with startling failure.

Mnangagwa, engaging as he is, must see the portion of the Mugabe government in the so-called vendor menace.

Force and confrontation will simply beget resistance as we see today. The time has come for engagement, not confrontation.

The sooner the government realises this, the better. Surely, we expect better. It is frivolous to adopt “Mugabeism”, which blatantly failed. A better way can be found in addressing the issue of vendors.

It is very logical for people to demand jobs before they can leave the streets.

Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity.

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