Harare city fathers sleeping on the job


A few moons ago, there was a sustained operation to get rid of vendors in Harare’s city centre and this villager, the son of a peasant, was not amused. So bad and widespread was vending that it was not surprising to find goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys being sold in Harare’s First Street, and, even to find a grinding mill.

This villager, while impressed by the sudden swoop and cleaning up of the streets, warned that the vendors would be back. Yes, they are back. They started trickling back slowly weeks after the crackdown and council turned a blind eye. It still turns a blind eye and will wait for another blockbuster operation.

This villager normally does not take a stroll in town but what he saw on the former green islands on Fourth Street and the level of vending along Robert Mugabe Road do not suggest that the council is still watching over the city.

The once green lung is now hued red with piles and piles of tomatoes. For ancestors’ sake, driving there has become too dangerous as vendors, pedestrians and touts smooth into each other. What nonsense!

In that previous instalment I made it clear that the problem with Zimbabwe in general and the City of Harare in particular is that no one can sustain an operation and take it to its logical conclusion. We somehow find ourselves continuing the same things, again and again.

The same happens with demolition of houses. Operation Murambatsvina set the record straight and cleaned up the cities but before the spore of the graders was rubbed off the rubble, people started building back. Now there is another operation.

This villager has worked with the City of Harare acting spokesperson Mike Chideme in Chideme’s other life as a journalist and unionist. Chideme, admittedly, is a fine young man who did wordsmithing apprenticeship under the villager and is competent and confident in giving statements. But the young man must be having a torrid time defending city fathers, who are in most cases, at sixes and sevens, seeing stars and not ideas that progressively move Harare. I feel pity for Mike for dealing with goat skinners. I listen to him on radio and read in newspapers and say: “Well, the young man is doing a lot of cleaning.”

One wonders how the city continues to run battles with vendors whom they once cleaned out. The intersection of Fourth Street and Robert Mugabe Road is an eyesore. It has become a jungle. Touts stand in the middle of the road in broad daylight

There are more touts than kombis and commuters combined. When driving you have to avoid them. They are stone drunk. Visibly drunk and they fight over cars that are driving past. They pull, shove and harass commuters. Put kombis that rank there in the picture and imagine the buffet of problems caused for the private motorist.

Concurrently, mushikashika (those small rodent-shaped cars) criss-cross, carrying more than a dozen people, touts hanging precariously on their back. The speed is amazing. The sight dazzling. The nonsense overwhelmingly stupid. It is a spectacle, which certainly should not elude all city fathers. Not even one of them?

It is amazing how goat-skinners masquerading as our city fathers can ignore such madness at Fourth Street. All you need to do is drive there any time of the day and see how life can be horrible. We had an operation against touts but those bleary-eyed drunks are back, harassing all and sundry.

I am not sure why the City of Harare has brazenly ignored such machinations. It is not even subtle. It is as clear as a cloudless sky.

It defies logic that we are troubled by the same people: the same vendors, the same touts, the same kombi crews, then we go after them and spend ratepayers’ money.

The same manner in which Harare deployed people to collect cash from parking motorists is the same it should do in deploying municipal police at every troubled corner. But don’t you find it silly that municipal policemen raid kombi crews, vendors and touts. Why do you have to raid? Why not be there all the time to avoid commission of the crime? Fetid!

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