Is it feasible to try and solve the vending crisis while ignoring its cause and its tentacles?.
Have our leaders lost touch with reality or is it a question of mere ignorance?
These are some questions Harare residents face daily as the streets of Harare are flooded by hawkers who sale anything from clothes to hardware.
While government expects taxes from formal businesses that are operating in the city centres, vendors are cashing on the business with less responsibilities and no obligations -prejudicing both the state and the formal entities.
Proponents of street vendors have blamed the state of the economy for the crisis as they state that government has failed to attract foreign direct investment to create fresh jobs. They have also pointed out to a collapsed infrastructure and poor service delivery as key drivers of the informal sector.
“Mabasa hakuna, mhuri dzinofa nenzara, ini nemurume wangu tirima vendor; vanofanira kutanga vatiwanira mabasa.” (“There are no jobs, my husband and I are both vendors, they should find jobs for us first.”) said a vendor who identified herself as Amai Tadiwa.
“I am a widow, I have no husband that’s(vending) the only means of survival that I have, I am also a lodger, I don’t own a house and because I have no money I only use one room,” said a vendor who sells sweet potatoes along Jason Moyo street in Harare’s CBD.
Another vendor who identified himself as Kadivirire said things are tough in the country and street vending was the only solution available.
“If they remove us, they must give us the solution which is jobs that they promised us in the first place. If it is garbage they don’t want they should give us brooms so that we can clean after we finish selling our wares. We voted for them but they don’t care about us, after we voted for them they now want to chase us from the city. We are educated but there are no jobs in the country hence they must provide jobs full stop! Is that why they legalized prostitution, So that we can engage in prostitution? What will the international community say if they start their operation? If they put us in isolated places who will buy our wares and there are no toilets there which is a health hazard to us and our customers how is the situation different from now if they say we are causing danger health wise;” another vendor who sells clothes along Mbuya Nehanda street in the CBD.
Even university graduates are part of the vendors.
“I have no problem with vendors only that mabhero ( second hand clothes) and groceries should have proper places to sell not in front of rent and tax paying shops it is not fair. Imagine Topics , OK, Food World , Edgars, Powersales, Horizons, and all those guys who pay tax to the Council and tax to ZIMRA having mabhero and groceries at their door step it is not fair at all, in fact it is not acceptable;” said a Harare resident who identified herself as Makanaka.
“They should apply a little reasoning here, 85% of the population are unemployed, people need to feed their families and try to stay afloat in this economically stale country. At least they are trying to do something so that they can earn a living and not stealing. Create jobs and there will be fewer vendors. Create the 2 million bobs you promised and see if you will have a vendor crisis,” said a man who only identified himself as Garikai.
Council has moved to remove the vendors to designated places but the move has been met with resistance
“Yes it is too much the streets are congested, vendors now exceed the number of shops in the CBD but look at it this way, why don’t the government fix the economy first and then chase them way if they continue selling things on the streets while jobs are there,” said another resident.
George Giya, a shop owner in Chinhoyi Street said vendors are disadvantaging shop owners as they make their business difficult to conduct hence if the situation continues, shop owners will have no choice but to close shops and join vendors on the streets as there are no taxis and licenses to pay.
Vendors are estimated to be more than 2000 country wide following closure of companies and retrenchments in the few remaining companies due to economic constrains that have continued to shrink the economy, this has caused a chaotic situation as councils are failing to control them
Besides causing chaos and blocking free flow of both human and motorist, vendors have been accused of exposing the city to various health hazardous and outbreaks.
Most of the sites that have been popularised by hawkers do not have ablution facilities.
Some sell fresh produces without proper sanitation and waste disposal facilities leading to the city centre being dirty and littered.
City Spokesperson Michael Chideme said the on-going car and mouse game between council and vendors was not only hindering the city’s vision 2025, it was a security threat which should be treated with urgency.
“We need to deal with this issue once and for all. Well we agree that vending or the informal sector is here to stay, We must holistically look at the risk it poses to both the existing business and bid to attract new investors. We must have a win -win situation and move the vendors to appropriate sites so that we can grow our economy through attraction of investors and providing a health working environment,” said Chideme