Illegal activities around the former Ximex Mall have become a cause for concern to all and sundry.
Anyone familiar with the goings-on there is shocked at how the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Harare City Council have developed jelly feet when it comes to dealing with the menace.
A blatant disregard for city parking by-laws, illegal forex dealings, car sales, street gambling, buying and selling of stolen phones and drugs, not to mention an assortment of wine and whisky sold from vehicle boots in broad daylight, does not in any way suggest that Harare still has law enforcement agents.
Ironically, the two chief law enforcers — Harare Central Police Station (popularly known as the Charge Office) and Town House — are located just a spitting distance from the eye-ball of evil.
We are not sure whether to call this brazen dereliction of duty or mere incapacity, or both.
We are therefore forced to ask, do we still have police in this city?
From a hypermarket to a modest business complex that housed several businesses a few years ago before it was demolished to pave way for a car park, the area around Jason Moyo Avenue, Angwa Street and Innez Terrace has become a haven of crime, day and night.
What surprises us is that the unabated illegal activities at the former Ximex Mall are happening right under the nose of a municipal police unit charged with enforcing the city’s by-laws.
Several times, law enforcement agents have been spotted loitering around the former shopping mall, seemingly unfazed by criminal activities taking place there 24/7.
Angwa Street has been rendered impassable by foreign currency dealers, street gamblers, car and alcohol merchants, who have turned it into a virtual no-go area for other citizens.
The “money changers” who wantonly flaunt foreign currency, while perched on high stools and/or in their vehicles are also in the habit of hurling obscenities at female pedestrians.
The fact that they keep returning is proof that there is brisk business, which sadly is being supported by the citizens, who turn a blind eye to the illegal activities for their own expediency.
The vice and crime aside, the stench of urine wafting from the sanitary lanes is enough to dampen any hope of conducting decent business in the area. What with the food court nearby?
We believe that allowing such illegal activities to flourish in the middle of the capital is a setback to Harare’s goal of attaining world class city status by 2025, never mind Vision 2030.
The fact that the insidious activities have been going on for years suggests there might be a cartel of bigwigs behind the scenes, greasing the palms of law enforcement agents.
It also suggests lax policing that has had the effect of normalising the abnormal. How else does one explain the continuation of such activities, with all those aberrations?
How can law enforcement agents turn a blind eye to such vices?
For all we know, those who have experienced gangsterism in their neighbourhoods will attest that it didn’t just emerge.
It started off with individuals and small groups, shuffling a pack of cards at a street corner, engaging in alcohol binges while engaging in “small-time” illicit deals.
With time, the groups evolved into highly complex and organised networks involved in extortion, armed robberies, drug deals, sex trade, gambling, illegal logging and smuggling of vehicles and goods.
And by its nature, gangsterism is difficult to eradicate because dirty money is often used to blackmail, extort, bribe and corrupt systems and individuals, in the process incapacitating those entrusted with arresting and prosecutorial powers.
We would not want to reach that stage, and we believe what is happening at the former Ximex Mall is not yet beyond redemption.
We are therefore calling for sustained operations to rid the area of illegal activities and restore sanity in the central business district. Previous blitzes have been little more than a slap on the wrist for the dealers and their sponsors.
We believe a police crackdown on the former Ximex Mall will reduce crime in the area while at the same creating the much-needed business ambience.
Crackdowns instil fear among perpetrators who know that there is a possibility of going to jail for a long time if convicted.
Outside the raids, a serious developer, like the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), should consider building a state-of-the-art shopping mall to cater for the discerning customer.