By Tafadzwa Chigandiwa
She stays in the oldest suburb in Harare (Mbare) where she wakes up in the dawn hours to prepare for her three children to go to school, hence she does not go back to enjoy her sleep as she continues with her daily routine by carrying a basket heading to the meat market place.
Behind this hive of vending activity is a sorrowful story full of pain and grief as this woman is struggling to meet the demands of her family’s needs and wants.
Living behind her tiresome life is a 52 year old paralyzed husband whose critical condition requires her close attention but unfortunately, she cannot make it.
Above all, she is asthmatic; therefore bearing the burden of all the responsibilities at home is quite irksome and tedious.
Elizabeth Masanga (not real name) is supposed to feed four hungry mouths, pay rent for their one-roomed house, hustle for her children’s school fees together with transport fares and cater for the medication of her husband.
The people and institutions who are supposed to rehabilitate the life of those with bleak future and squalid life are the ones who accelerate their poverty due to chasing them away from their areas of hustling and vending, all in the name of keeping smartness of the city.
Notwithstanding, being a vendor in Zimbabwe has never been as easy as slicing margarine with a hot knife, especially for an a
women like Elizabeth, because it is always the case that government is a thorn in the flesh of these vendors as it uses the police to daily brutalize and suppress them.
The Municipal and Zimbabwe Republic Police used force and arrested thousands of vendors as a response to the directive.
It is also revealed that police brutality, sexual abuse, confiscation of goods and harassment was part of the difficulties which the vendors encountered.
Vendor’s goods are constantly confiscated and some of them are even assaulted. Municipal police officers solicited bribes from the vendors, which ranged from cash to kind.
Day in day out female colleagues reported sexual harassment and abuse wherein they had to provide sexual favors in return for their confiscated goods or for places in designated vending sites.
Elizabeth laments how agitating it is to hustle in the streets while unsettled, always on toes looking left and right for the municipality police who loot, kick and throw away the goods sold by the so called vendors known in Shona as “Vanhu Vemisika.”
Comparing Zimbabwe to other countries globally, for example India and South Africa where vending challenges were resolved amicably without necessarily arresting or prosecuting vendor.
Vendors are complaining that government should ease the procedure of attaining a hawker’s license especially hiking fees now and again.
Worldwide vendors account for an average of 20% of the total employment while in Zimbabwe they account for over 90% of the urban job.
There are integral parts of the world’s urban economy as they contribute much to retail markets and also provide the world population with affordable, accessible goods and services to the urban poor consumers.