By Farayi Machamire
On October 12 2017, many woke up as they normally do in the wee hours of the morning, long before alarm bells have rung.
They made their way to their traditional markets before going to their spots in a bid to cash in on the few employed Zimbabweans as they make their way to their work stations.
Some had vowed they would fight to remain at their undesignated stations or be killed fighting.
The bold had lined up rocks, the previous day, in anticipation of a bruising confrontation with municipal police who had been reinforced by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in the wake of President Robert Mugabe’s unflinching threat.
But as day broke and the police circled in their tankers it began to dawn on many street hawkers that this could be a fight they would not win.
Slowly they retreated to the prescribed designated sites, while a few packed their stalls and unpacked, then packed again, standing akimbo, not believing their woes had mounted overnight.
“Where can I go, the proceeds I get from vending at this site have become my husband,” said Patience Mudzi who lives in Epworth but travels daily to the central business district to sale her wares.
“Sending us to the designated site will definitely destroy the little business I was making to fend for my family because no one ventures there,” she adds.
Her cries were backed by the three women in her company who insisted that it was not their desire to be vending but hardships and rising joblessness had forced them to eke out a living using unorthodox means.
Not everyone though supports their way of doing business.
Environmental Management Authority have raised alarm over the use of LP gas — often regarded as extremely dangerous and toxic — by some vendors who now braai at street corners.
Harare City Council who are pushing to attain the seemingly unattainable dream of World Class City status by 2025, have been calling for the removal of vendors to the extent that it begun to sound like a broken record, until Mugabe whose word has become law spoke against the trend a fortnight ago.
Blamed for failing to create the 2,2 million promised jobs, Mugabe set the cat among the pigeon when he issued an edict aimed at bringing order to the bustling city of some 2 million people.
He said food stalls would be moved off the pavements and some could be relocated to new sites. He said he will not allow street vending to be a common feature of Harare “Nigerian style.”
He added that government would not accept the chaos they bring, adding that they must accept to be relocated to designated vending stalls and trade openly where the authorities assign them.
National Vendors Union Zimbabwe chairperson Sten Zvorwadza came out guns blazing telling the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe was “daydreaming” in his bid to ban street vending.
He immediately drew the ire of a repressive police force which arrested him for “undermining the authority of the president” before he was remanded out of custody on $200 bail.
But authorities did not flinch and to date they have rounded up over 90 people for obstructing the free passage along any street, road, thoroughfare, sidewalk or pavement during the ongoing “Operation Sunshine City”.
“We have been given overwhelming support by the public and would like to thank all for this. Please take note that this operation is meant to guarantee your safety, hygiene, promote lawful business conduct and ensure smooth flow of traffic in the central business district,” said assistant police spokesperson Paul Nyathi.
“We urge business people and building owners not to assist vendors to hide wares on their behalf or keep them overnight. Those vendors who are lawfully registered should stick to their allocated points. Those found operating in undesignated points will have their licences withdrawn and will not be registered.”
The coming in of the police has given Harare City Council renewed energy in their citywide blitz to remove all vendors and push-carts from the streets.
The blitz insists that every vendor who wishes to trade within the city centres designated sites should be registered with the local authority, begun to be heard.
“We adopted a framework for the renewal of the city through decongestion. We currently have about 20 000 vendors in the CBD. Some of them had been registered to operate in the various suburbs and designated sites but they have abandoned their sites,” said acting town clerk Josephine Ncube.
“The framework is to make sure that vendors are relocated to the sites they are supposed to be and to decongest in terms of kombis operating in the CBD. For vendors they will be registered and allocated sites- some within the CBD but others within the districts from where they will trade.”
In the new set up push carts have been driven out of the city centre and those doing wholesaling have been moved to Mbare and Lusaka markets.
It however remains to be seen if the 20 000 vendors or so will take it on the chin and accept their new business premises, some distance away from the bustling CBD. Daily News