By Aleck Murimigwa
Last month (June) the central government and local authorities in Zimbabwe started demolitions of vending stalls and tuck-shops on grounds that they are illegal.
Places that were subjected to the demolition were largely in Harare, the country’s capital where an estimated five million people live.
The victims have since equated to death, the destruction of their business infrastructure. Civil society organisations widely condemned the government’s demolition operation as insincere.
Not only vending stalls were razed down, but also some houses were chopped down. The demolition operation has left some people without shelter, food among other necessities.
This has happened on the back of rising poverty in the former British colony under a new government headed by Zanu PF number one, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The rising poverty levels in Zimbabwe have been largely attributed to unemployment, corruption, and economic mismanagement.
The World Bank report released early June raised alarming statistics on poverty levels in Zimbabwe.
The report said: “The number of extreme poor is expected to remain at 7.9 million in 2021 amid continued elevated prices, and a slow recovery of jobs and wages in the formal and informal sectors.”
This translates to half of the population in the country being classified in the poverty arena.
The World Bank further defined poor people as those living under the food poverty line of US$29.80 (£21) each person per month.
That the demolitions took place on the back of this finding by the World Bank, leaves one wondering how the ordinary folk survives in Zimbabwe.
Most of the people feed their families from vending. They send their children to school through vending, and they pay pretty much every bill through vending.
Razing down the infrastructure they bank on for every income, therefore, goes beyond cruelty. How will they survive?
Former Minister of Energy and Power Development Fortune Chasi even queried the heart of his compatriots in the party and government.
“DEMOLITIONS lulled now. So has the discussion about them. Where are the victims sleeping now? Did they eat? What of the women who gave birth last month? Any thoughts about the plight of the baby?”, Chasi wrote on Twitter last week.
Those demolitions took place during the winter season justifies the victims’ position that the demolitions of their vending infrastructure and houses is the same as killing them.
It has become a tradition since the turn of the new millennium, that most Zimbabweans survive through vending as the industrial sector runs out of employment opportunities.
While victims pleaded for an alternative source of income, the government has ignored calls.
One vendor, Maxwell Chidambani, who worked in Harare’s Glenview 8 suburb said the government and local authorities were heartless.
“They don’t even consider the reason why people flood into the small business enterprise,’’ Chidambani said.
“There are no jobs in the industry and people have no option but to create their own industry. The least the government is expected to do is to leave people working for their families until the economic situation normalises, not this inhumane exercise.”