Home » Arts & Culture » ’Wild West’ Comes to Harare

These are lines from William Butler Yeats’ iconic poem “The Second Coming”, which incidentally highlights what happens on the average day in Downtown Harare.

Gentle reader, Downtown Harare – this area with Rotten Row to the west, Leopold Takawira Street to the east, and subtended by Simon Mazorodze Road to the south and Samora Machel Avenue to the north – has become a haven of lawlessness.

It has actually been turned into a city within the city replete with its own Government, populace, administration and order of events that bid on national authorities to take immediate action before the anarchy spreads.

City by-laws have been thrown out the window with this part of the city being turned into something worse than Timbuktu, a city in central Mali near the Niger River, formerly famous for its gold trade.

Prostitutes have taken over Rotten Row, Luck Street and parts of Mbuya Nehanda Street where they prey on vendors, shoppers and visitors. So aggressive are these flesh peddlers that they sometimes impose themselves on unwilling men and demand payment for “time wasted”.

Streetkids do not fare any better.

Bands of coarse and unpolished youths are always on the prowl. They “guard” people’s cars for a fee while unlucky motorists have in most cases found the vehicles abandoned with radios and valuables like CDs, laptops, groceries, cash and even seat covers missing.

Spare wheels, wheel spanners and jacks have in most such cases not been spared.

Unregistered funeral parlours and coffin shops have also set up shop in downtown Harare where it is not unusual to go round a building and find a body being prepared for burial.

Most funeral parlours, Ghetto Blast learnt, do not have mortuaries and rely on rented facilities from some hospitals. These hospitals, however, allow these parlours access between 6am and 6pm forcing these fly-by-night funeral service providers to stash corpses in vehicles overnight.

Mbanje peddlers are in abundance in downtown Harare which has also become the hub of flea markets and backyard bottle stores which sell beer during working hours.

Sellers of unregistered medicines like the derriegravere-enhancing Apetito and some skin lighteners are sold openly on the streets.

So popular have the backyard bottle stores in downturn Harare become that workers desperate to kill hangovers sneak out of their places of work to quench their thirst.

Herbal concoctions for various ailments and abortion are sold openly in this place where the police rarely visit.

Gentle reader, downturn Harare resembles a huge workshop where engine overhauls, vehicle tuning and repairs are done on pavements and used oil allowed to swill into storm water drains.

Owing to the absence of toilets, parked vehicles are used as shields by those seeking to relieve themselves.

Sadza vendors and women of loose morals are bedded in the man-made garages, parked vehicles or in the nearby Harare Kopje. Used condoms that are found in this area bear testimony to this.

Driving through Mbuya Nehanda and Harare streets is a nightmare because the car in front of you or right behind might be under repair.

The moment you venture into the street, you are accosted by hordes of youths desperate to sell genuine and fake vehicle accessories whose value varies with the depth of your pocket.

“Taura kuti une mariiko shamwari tinobva takurerutsira? Tiripo kuti zvako zviite,” you hear motorists being sweet-talked into parting with their hard-earned cash.

The area is not without its fair share of drama.

Duped customers at times exact revenge, while some women fight over men on the streets. The guys sometimes fight among themselves after failing to share the loot equitably.

There is drama everywhere. On unlucky days the mbanje dealers are swopped on by the police, creating scenes that hold the city spellbound.

Cash-splashing tobacco farmers have nothing rosy to say about downtown Harare where they have been made to part with cash in exchange for trinkets. Some of them are sold bottled smoke.

Yours truly felt pity after coming across a bloke who had been sold a parked motorbike only to realise he had been duped when the rightful owner returned.

Municipal policemen do not usually venture into the streets where they are lucky to escape without a beating.

Some of them are paid and asked to leave pronto.

So serious is lawlessness in this part of the city that the police have been reduced to spectators while a number of them have been assaulted while executing their duties.

The area is no longer safe for pedestrians.

Kombis which operate from Chinhoyi Street, Mbuya Nehanda Street, Jason Moyo Avenue, Market Square and Rezende Street, and pirate taxis have become a menace.

Unlicensed drivers are wreaking havoc at commuter omnibus ranks where they endanger the lives of commuters through driving at high speeds while fleeing police.

Only this week a young boy was run over and a killed by a kombi driver which was fleeing arrest.

But there is a measure of contributory negligence which makes the police liable.

Some of their policing techniques like throwing spikes and smashing windscreens have left scores of people killed and maimed widening calls for improvement on this.

Gentle reader, downtown Harare can be safe for everyone if we all take it upon ourselves to fight lawlessness.

Inotambika mughetto.

Source : The Herald