This morning I looked at my right front tyre and just like it, I felt rather deflated. Not wanting to chance the trip to work I decided to nip down to our friendly under the tree tyre and air entrepreneurs. They’ve been around for years and in times of need they’ve always come through for me. Unfortunately this morning the patch of free land that they occupy near Rhodesville Shopping Centre was empty. These guys have been chased away, just like so many others, in one of Mugabe’s latest acts o...read more
This morning I looked at my right front tyre and just like it, I felt rather deflated. Not wanting to chance the trip to work I decided to nip down to our friendly under the tree tyre and air entrepreneurs. They’ve been around for years and in times of need they’ve always come through for me. Unfortunately this morning the patch of free land that they occupy near Rhodesville Shopping Centre was empty. These guys have been chased away, just like so many others, in one of Mugabe’s latest acts of bizarre “misgovernance”. So I crossed the road to try my luck at the formal, supposedly respectable, garage only to be told that they had no air. So, go figure, the really useful informal entrepreneur who earns a few bucks pumping up car tyres by hand gets chased away by Mugabe’s police while the formal garage fails to provide basic services.
Then last Friday, just near my offices, riot police in all their posturing and swaggering arrogance swooped down on hapless vegetable sellers confiscating their vegetables and sending them away. They sell a variety of vegetables from a concrete structure that has a sign in front of it declaring that it is a certified “peoples market” by order of the Harare City Council. Let’s not forget that we are sinking under 70% unemployment, which means that the largest productive sector in Zimbabwe is actually the informal trading one. This sector, I believe, deserves the utmost respect and appreciation. In a country devastated by wildly incompetent elite politicians, informal traders have shown admirable resilience and ingenuity. If it weren’t so tragic it would be laughable to linger longer on these fat cat politicians shitting themselves because they might not be harnessing every single cent of foreign currency in the country.
The Mugabe regime can’t possibly get more stupid, can it?
Well, yes it can.
Anna, my domestic worker, tells me that the regime is thinking about evicting thousands of Zimbabweans living in high density areas (townships) unless they are actually living in a legal structure. Apparently the “boys kias” (wooden shacks) will be razed. The police have said that those occupying them should return to the rural areas because there is no space for them in the city. Never mind that back in the day Mugabe made all sorts of promises like Housing For All By The Year 2000.
And there’s more. Zimbabweans who are lucky enough to be in formal employment are finding it harder and harder to get to work each day because either there is no fuel, or because the police have impounded commuter buses. People wake up as early as 4am in a bid to walk to work, or they queue endlessly waiting for a taxi. Meanwhile the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has said that they will embark on a “Buy Zimbabwe” campaign in order to resuscitate local industry. But hey - hasn’t the Government just imported a fleet of Chinese “zhing zhong” buses. And isn’t the Government, at this very moment, seizing vendors’ vegetables, basket ware and flowers?
For as long as I can remember, Africa Unity Square in the center of Harare, has been home to several flower and curio sellers. They are an integral part of our landscape, but no more! The few tourists that visit the five star Meikles Hotel which faces Africa Unity Square will just have to buy their Zimbabwean momentos elsewhere. In case you’ve forgotten, this is Africa Mr Mugabe. It isn’t Oslo and it isn’t Beijing. Vendors are a part of our culture.
I could go on and on about the various shortages, as so many others have done lately, but I won’t. Instead I think it’s interesting to reflect on the biggest shortage of all: leadership. This shortage exists in civil society, in the plethora of NGOs in Zimbabwe and in the political opposition – the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). No one is coming forward to provide leadership, direction and vision. And most importantly action. Instead, everyone just shrugs his or her shoulders or one tiny step better, issues eloquent press statements condemning the regime’s brutality.
And a fat lot of good that’s going to do.