By Talkmore Thulani Gandiwa
History will always repeat itself, no matter the magnitude but it has to repeat itself.
Taking back the hands of the clock, 15 years ago an unexpected event occurred during the iron fist reign of Robert Mugabe who was later removed by a military coup in November 2017 the event only left tears in the eyes of all Zimbabweans, the same operation has occurred again with a little impact as it now targets illegal shops and vending sites.
Many Zimbabweans have lost their homes in the name of operation Murambatsvina of 2005, as the government was seeking to clean the country, with the vision 2020 which was meant to elevate the sunshine city to a first class city but the area was left in a deformed state that was unpleasant and hopeless on the ordinary citizens, families were dispersed and some could not afford to feed their families because of the tragedy that had fallen upon the land of Zimbabwe.
Operation Murambatsvina was deemed as a political strategy which was used by the then president Robert Mugabe and Zanu Pf to weaken the opposition support which was based largely in urban areas.
Fast forward to the present day, its been weeks after the announcement of lockdown by president Emerson Mnangagwa that has restricted public gathering the closure beer halls, school, church gatherings and the informal sector due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Due to the unemployment that has rack the country, citizen depend on hand to mouth as way of putting food on the table for their families but with the inversion of Covid 19 that has succumbed millions of people around the world people have hoped to resume their vending operation under watchful environment.
All hope has been wiped away as the government has done the Nicodimus way by destroying all illegal structures that were used for informal business by a larger percentage of Zimbabweans during the national lockdown.
The demolition of these so called illegal structures has far reaching consequences for the majority of the population as it was their only means of survival during economic hardships that are currently engulfing the country.
In an interview with National Vendors Union Zimbabwe chairperson, Sten Zvorwadza said, life of an Informal Worker depends on the small investment acquired, through hard work, over many years.
” Our economy is shrinking in terms of avenues available to grow investments because of our weak currency, low production levels and unavailability of foreign currency, the major contributed of this situation is because of high rate of unemployment in the country which have left many lives living through vending.
”Little acquired investments of Informal Workers should be ring fenced and protected as a way of continued support to give life to these marginalized workers. Zvorwadza has said.
Zvorwadza said the government has to put in place an alternative of working place for the vendors before removing them from the streets.
“Demolitions of vending structures of Informal Workers without provision of alternative profitable trading spaces are evil beyond measure.
“When the lockdown is lifted, perhaps after some months from now, Informal Workers will begin another man-inflicted poverty lockdown because sources of income were destroyed through demolitions of their work space structures”. Zvorwadza has said.
Many citizens who had been affected by this initiative had expressed mixed feelings as they fail understand why the government has used the camouflage of the national lockdown to demolish their businesses.
Emma Mutekedza, a vendor in Kuwadzana, said they were shocked by the governments move as they were caught off guard and they were not given enough time to remove goods in their tuck shops.
“It’s shocking, we thought we were on national Lockdown but the next thing we saw is our tuck shops were being destroyed, no notice ,no what .
The government should have at least given us notice; we dont even know why they used the disguise of national lockdown.” Mutekedza has said.
A Norton based vendor Tendai Mzimbani said the initiative by the government cannot be justfied as vending was easing up the heat of unemployment in the country.
“I was able to sent my kids to 3 kids to school, pay rent and afford to put food on the table for my family through vending but now its a different scenario because after this pandemic l am not able to carry out my operations because the government has destroyed our working place.” Mzimbani has said.
A 37 year old shop owner Simon Mwinde said the government is more concerned with their civil servant rather than the whole nation.
“The government has failed to show love for the ordinary citizens and how their living their life rather they put their focus on their employees.
“My shop was recently demolished by the council as they said its legal structure and before it was demolished the same council gave me license to operate on the same place they demolish.” Mwinde has said.
Norton based resident Mary Kennedy said the rate of robberies will escalate around the country as people fighting for survival.
“The police should prepare for the worst because this initiative has leaved ordinary citizens desperate for survival as the number of thief’s and robberies will increase across the country.” Kennedy has said.
A Norton town council employee has acknowledged that the citizens are bitter with how their property was demolished by the council as they want to clean the city.
Tichaona Senator 37, a vendor at White House said the government of Zimbabwe must start to evaluate the levels of poverty and suffering of Informal Workers and decide the clear roadmap to follow.
If the government decides to rectify the serious imbalance, it should start implementing such remedy immediately and the government decides to ignore the situation and become a spectator, then, it should brace up for a real revulsion in an uncontrollable magnitude”. Senator has said.
“Why are Local Authorities always reactive to disease outbreaks? A few years ago, Local Authorities tormented Informal Workers on Streets and Markets when Harare suffered Cholera outbreak.
We often wonder the planning abilities of the Local Authorities Management to execute their work taking into consideration all sectors of the Economy. Informal Workers are at the present moment and beyond in a lockdown.
As a nation, we should pause, reflect and consider what is in the best interest of every citizen of this country. We cannot have equal shares of wealth but we can strive to protect one another from abject poverty.