Home » Governance » Driving Out Vendors the Height of Political Madness

As the discourse on city vending deepens, the future of vendors is now increasingly uncertain.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo in the company of Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) convened a press briefing where they read the riot act to the vendors’ representatives, giving a seven-day ultimatum. Yet what boggles the mind is the manner in which the minister and the Brigadier have resolved to tackle this fundamental national issue.

With prevailing levels of abject urban poverty that have been exacerbated by chronic mass unemployment as economic decline worsens, vending has emerged as the inevitable survival alternative. As the apparent failure of Zim Asset to generate the promised 2,2 million jobs dawns on the jobless yet hungry electorate, street vending in all its dimensions has become the mainstay of subsistence.

Remarkably, the First Lady Grace Mugabe had pleaded with authorities to be considerate of the plight the vending community who are mostly ex-workers in a now shrinking productive formal sector. But Zimra, city authorities, and such other regulators went on to impose all forms of charges, fines and taxes to the vending community which however remained resilient.

Though vending conditions were difficult, many endured. But then came the ultimatum. Shock, utter disbelief and bitterness engulfed the vending community as the city father brought along the army boss to threaten their final vestige of existence.

Reiterating the potential involvement of police in the process of flushing out of any adamant elements, the minister effectively squashed all CBD vending hopes after June 8.

The recent pronouncements can be fairly considered as a desperate attempt by a hopeless government to arrest total degeneration of city centres at the expense of survival.

It is common knowledge that city vending has undeniably generated untold sanity headaches for city authorities. It is widely understood that vending has also compromised and jeopardised profitability of formal institutions that are taxed and regulated.

But so many questions beg answers from the Brigadier and Chombo, if not from the entire administration:

Did this problem of vending develop over seven days such that it can be fixed within a week?

Are claims in the government economic blueprint, Zim Asset, that informal trading will be widely promoted, mere propaganda?

Was the First Lady’s plea for leniency on behalf of informal traders simply politicking?

Is city sanity a more critical and productive priority as compared to vending for survival?

It is apparent that no honest answers will be provided by this failed administration. First and foremost, the country did not wake up one day to find its cities swarming with vendors. As retrenchments soared, company closures and the liquidity crunch worsened the vending community swelled. A shrinking formal productive sector coupled with a rising number of graduates churned from state colleges every year created the vending crisis the government is seized with today.

Minister Chombo and Brigadier Sanyatwe should know that this is not a seven-day crisis. It thus leaves observers wondering the political sanity of the pronouncement. Clearly it is political madness.

The First Lady’s remarks were widely considered as in line with the Zim Asset promises. What has changed now? Or can it all be construed as grand politicking that was necessary when she was campaigning for the ouster of rivals? When police and council authorities complied till this ultimatum, on whose orders was this? Or is it that the balance of power is ever shifting in a divided administration? It is obvious there was never policy sincerity with vendors on the part of the government. Not even now or ever.

The final crux of the matter is the question of priorities. What is city sanity when its populace is dying and wasting away in the ghetto? Whereas a modest balance must be struck between city vending and city status, a total flush out of vendors despite being highly difficult is complete wickedness. Why has the government chosen to punish the electorate for its failures? The conscience of the government is clearly under scrutiny as its priorities in this are openly misplaced.

It is therefore clear that nothing makes sense in the impending crackdown on vendors. Whereas Zim Asset, Grace Mugabe and pro-poor activists say yes to vending, the same government through minister Chombo and Brig Sanyatwe have said no. To add to the confusion, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi has said the army will not be involved in driving out vendors.

This is the sad reality of political madness that has taken over the beleaguered administration. So many centres of power have emerged, thus the contradicting pronouncements. These policy inconsistencies have jeopardised lives of millions of Zimbabweans who are surviving on vending today. As the unease wait for the Monday showdown continues, all sane minds are appealing to the government for more consultative win-win solution and not this radical anti-people stance.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard