On Wednesday President Mugabe warned British and American ambassadors against interfering in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe by sponsoring vendors and/or otherwise seeking to cause chaos in the country. That is a trite point to make: we all know that the so-called Arab Spring that toppled governments in North Africa began in Tunisia when, on December 17 2010 a vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire ostensibly in protest over the confiscation of his wares by police.
That act of self-immolation sparked widespread protests that swept away governments in that region and it has apparently provided a template for those seeking regime change in Zimbabwe.
We take strong exception to that, especially when the people have suffered more than enough under an illegal sanctions regime that the same Western countries illegally imposed on Zimbabwe.
This is certainly a new diplomatic low for Western countries.
Much worse, Western countries are showing their hypocrisy and lack of morals by openly encouraging lawlessness and activities that would hardly be acceptable in their own backyards.
Zimbabwe is governed by its laws and some of these laws preclude activities such as illegal vending.
While the law may have been rigid and designed for a particular era, population and dispensation, the Government has been responsive enough to amend and issue new regulations that make laws relevant to our present socio-economic situation.
Vending is not illegal in Zimbabwe.
In fact last year, Government promulgated Statutory Instrument 159 of 2014 or the Harare (Vendors) By-laws, 2014 which was hailed as a new dispensation for a city that had been saddled by colonial laws that were exclusionary, redundant, unhelpful and had a net effect of criminalising vending.
The new regulations are clear.
They enjoin the city to set aside land or premises for the establishment of vending sites and divide such land or premises into separate stands or stalls as the case may be.
The sites are categorised as following: Category A – sites designated for the sale of any publications, newspapers, magazines, cellphone recharge cards, phone recharge cards and any other related items as council may by resolution declare from time-to-time; Category B – sites designated for the sale of dairy products and any other related items as council may by resolution declare from time-to-time; and Category C- sites designated for the sale of any other goods or foodstuffs not specified categories above but, “which may be sold in the vending site or in different parts of the same vending site and approved by resolution of council from time-to-time”.
Now, this covers every aspect of vending as we know today.
Even if one were to bring sand from Mars and intend to sell it, all they simply need to do is look for a relevant category and, happily, the council can pass a resolution for the sale of such sand.
It is that simple.
The law is also conscious of the need for orderliness and public health, while it empowers officers to deal with any infractions relating to these provisions.
The law also defines a “nuisance” as a “condition which interferes with, or is likely to interfere with, the ordinary peace and comfort of the public or any section of the public”.
Illegal vendors clearly fall into this category.
How certain countries and political forces seek to prolong this nuisance is quite baffling.
Many Zimbabweans of goodwill, who go about their daily businesses in the CBD, have had enough of this nuisance and it is a universal agreement that something must be done.
We are quite certain that even tourists from Britain and America would not want to be confronted by this nuisance.
Of late, there have been efforts to rid the city of illegal vendors and it is paying off as some areas that had been rendered impassable are now back to normal while some eyesore structures that had littered the CBD have been removed.
By the day, municipal police is becoming more visible and stamping its authority – which it must have done long ago and nipped this nuisance in the bud.
But it is better late than never.
We urge authorities to keep their eyes on the ball and reclaim our Sunshine City.
This is our country and we have every right to deal with our issues, including vendors.
As for the Americans and British, they can go to hell.