As President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first 100 days in power beckon, Thomas Charumbira has little hope of leaving Julius Nyerere way where he has been operating as a vendor for the past two years.
That is despite that Charumbira is a professional marketer, with a degree from the University of Zimbabwe.
Charumbira (45) was among those who marched from Harare city centre to Zimbabwe Grounds on November 18 2017, demanding the removal from power of former president Robert Mugabe.
He had hoped to see economic change that would bring him employment.
“We marched for change, we marched to remove a clique which was benefiting from our resources while we the majority suffered,” Charumbira said as he recounted events of that Saturday when Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the military.
“My hope then was that, at least by January, I would be somewhere, doing something better than roasting maize in town or selling airtime as I am doing now,” he said.
With much enthusiasm, zeal and hope, the 18km trip to and from Zimbabwe Grounds was nothing compared to the anticipated opportunities he hoped would come with the new dispensation.
His optimism heightened further when Mnangagwa took over on November 24.
His speech, punctuated with promises of business growth and job creation, fuelled Charumbira’s optimism.
But 92 days on, Charumbira says he sees no prospects of him leaving the streets any time soon.
He is fast getting disillusioned again and says he is readying himself to fight the new regime if they, as they appear to, seek to drive vendors out of Harare.
“President Mnangagwa set targets for his administration and among the targets is one to clean the city by removing us.
But they will not do this until jobs are created. We are here to support our families,” said Charumbira.
“We are not vending by choice, but by circumstances which are a creation of the government that Mnangagwa was part of.
We had hope, but that hope is slowly fading away because there are no results on the ground. Under Mugabe, vendors were constantly harassed and threatened by the military. Even today, we are harassed. We expected jobs and not harassment from this regime.”
After Mnangagwa’s inauguration, his Local Government minister July Moyo announced illegal vendors would be removed.
But today, vending has grown and almost all street pavements are filled with vending stalls as thousands of jobless people battle to earn a living.
Government has tried through all means possible to drive illegal vending out of urban areas — even engaging the military — but the results have been disastrous.
Harare’s prime districts now resemble a village with no commercial value as any business — from sex work, selling of tomatoes, roasting of maize to selling illicit drugs such as dagga — is now commonplace.
Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo believes the new administrators have “done a remarkable job to deal with the economic crisis Zimbabwe had found itself in”.
“We are yet to reach the 100 days so it would be unfair to judge.
We can do a lot in the remaining days.
But generally we have done a lot to stabilise the economy.
Prices of basic goods and commodities have gone down and we are still doing a lot.
As the minister of Information, I believe we have done tremendous work. For your own information, some of the projects are long-term and results cannot be seen today. So give us time,” Khaya Moyo said.
But for Charumbira and the rest of the vending community, whatever government does in the eight remaining days as long as there is no job creation, Mnangagwa and his ministers would have failed on one of their targets of the first 100 days in office.
“If government creates jobs today, everyone who is in the street will be working at those places and until that happens, vendors are going nowhere,” said Sten Zvorwadza, leader of an association representing vendors.
“It’s not about having a big army or using guns against civilians that solve this issue, it is job creation.
No amount of threats and intimidation will remove vendors.
They can run away from a battalion but as long as they have families to feed, they will be back with more resilience and determination.
So from us as National Association of Vendors in Zimbabwe, we believe the army will not solve the problem of illegal vendors,” he said.
– The Standard