CHAOS REIGNS IN HARARE CBD
1 May 2018
. . . Flea Market bullies take over parking bays
. . . Council’s Vision 2025 up in smoke
By Gibson Nyikadzino and Rumbidzai Chingoveza
RESTORING Harare’s Sunshine City status seems to be a pipe dream. The city has been placed under siege by various menaces, chief among them, people selling clothes in streets whose parking bays have been turned to vending stalls.
The disorder reigning in the central business district could be proof that the centre can no longer hold.
An enquiry by H-Metro over the issue revealed an unwillingness to flex enforcement initiatives by the city fathers.
Along Park Street-Nelson Mandela Avenue convergence behind Construction House, the Harare City Council has prioritised chaos over order by closing at least 64 parking bays that have a potential to provide them with $512 a day and at least $2 560 a week.
Among the beneficiaries of the council’s benevolent gesture are vendors who sell second hand clothes, known as ‘mabhero’ while others sell groceries and vegetables.
The pavements have become impassable as vendors line up their stock. As has become custom, second hand clothes are being sold in front of shops that also sell clothes and pay rent too.
Traditionally, council shut Park Street on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays as it collected at least $5 from each vendor. But today, part of the street from the Nelson Mandela Avenue junction is operational from Sunday through to Saturday.
Council, however, according to vendors has not been collecting money from vendors on weekends, but “people claiming they own the street” collect money.
“There is a woman named Mai Khumalo who leads the cartel of people collecting money from us who intimidate people using political connections. Previously we knew that lady as a key ally of former First Lady Grace Mugabe, and now she is still collecting the money even in the new dispensation. Mai Khumalo vanongoti ndezvemusangano.
“They frequent Park Street demanding money,” said a vendor who requested anonymity.
A similar situation exists along Innez Terrace near ZimPost. Young men sell their wares from their parked omnibuses and other vehicles as they dodge council authorities who work tirelessly to remove them from parking bays.
The young men have said it is not their intention to hinder council’s progress in making the city world class, but a scarcity of opportunities in the job market makes them seek alternative means to survive by breaking council by-laws.
“Council employees these days are not breathing down our necks except those from Easi-Park because we will be using parking bays to sell clothes. Here we sell clothes we get from Tanzania and we are trying to survive because there are no jobs.
“We end up failing to pay for space in parking bays because panenge pasina mari. In the end we just give Easi-Park marshals something because tave nehukama,” said 24-year-old Prince Makoni.
Council now ineffective?
Council over the years has been attacked by stakeholders for failing to execute strategies and plans in an effective manner. In the context of the closed part of Park Street, Michael Chideme, council spokesperson said the space that has been closed is for the city fathers.
“That space is for council and not individuals. That road is only opened to the public on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays just for council business,” said Chideme.
Chideme further indicated that there were individuals (names provided) known to council who shut the street’s parking bays and opened them to vendors and are collecting money for personal gain.
“There are individuals, space barons, that are collecting money from vendors for personal gain and people should not give money to people who are not council representatives.
“The money that is collected by these space barons is never invested to develop infrastructure that benefits the vendors,” added Chideme.
Council also pointed that what was being done was illegal, citing that the space barons were unprincipled people who had switched political allegiance and now are putting the names of various stakeholders into disrepute.
Vision 2025 still attainable?
The social service delivery provision by Harare City Council has seen clients questioning the sincerity of the city leaders.
People selling wares at undesignated sites, pirate taxis, burst sewer pipes, uncollected bins, untreated water and potholes are all part of a network that has seen council being slammed.
Despite the negatives that seem to far-outweigh the positives, Chideme said the 2025 Vision to make Harare a World Class City is still attainable.
Added Chideme: “Vision 2025 is still attainable. We are going to regularise everything so that council and its clients have a mutual arrangement. Dai pasina ma space barons ava vanovhiringidza zvinhu, tingadai tave pane chimwe chinhano.”
As council clamours that it will attain its vision, there seems to be a huge gap as council is losing revenue to those who claim “political correctness”.
According to vendors along Park Street, they pay between $5 and $10 a day to those who have hijacked the part of the street, and the money has not been given to council.
Vendors, customers defy council
As the disorder continues, vendors have vowed to remain along Park Street until council provides a “reasonable alternative” and customers have also indicated they will not buy products from shops because “boutiques are expensive”.
A survey by H-Metro revealed that people who buy from vendors selling wares at undesignated areas follow the good quality and cheap prices compared to those from traditional clothing shops.
Men’s shirts, either long or short sleeved, sell for $3 along Park Street vendors while in retail shops they range between $35 and $75 in traditional clothing stores.
Long dresses cost $8 while they range from $40 to over $100 in most traditional shops.
Lingerie has also proven cheap since a woman’s bra costs $1 while in proper shops they sell for as high as $20.
Webster Chigwedere, a second-hand clothes vendor, who plies his business along Park Street said he left his mineral exploration profession in 2016 to become a vendor.
“Council authorities should calm down, there are no jobs. What do they want us to do to earn a living? I do this to survive and I have a lot of clients that come to buy these clothes because they like quality and our cheap prices because we also give them room to negotiate prices,” said Chigwedere.
Chigwedere’s statement was also affirmed by a client, only identified as Hellen.
“I prefer buying here because the prices are reasonable zvoenderana nehomwe yangu. Secondly there is no substitute for quality. Again, you will be having assurance that you will be the only person with that piece of garment unlike it is when you buy from boutiques. In boutiques you end up looking like you are wearing a uniform.
“Kuno kumabhero kune ma designer labels like River Island and Louis Vuitton. So as long as these second-hand clothes vendors are alive, I will forever buy from them.
“Things are tough for me to afford a jacket going for an average price of $100 at (Shop named) considering that I have four children I also need to take care for,” she said.
Perils of bad strategy
As Harare mayor councillor Benard Manyenyeni sees through his term, a lot has been done but little success and progress has been registered in addressing the ever getting out of hand vendors situation.
The situation obtaining on the ground is evident of council failure to rethink business turnaround strategies.
In 2016, the Harare mayor was quoted saying: “When we came into office, I indicated that the target is to leave council and the city better than we found it. Just over half way, I can reinforce that and assure you that it will.”
Today Harare seems disintegrated and broken in service delivery. Along Park Street, commuter omnibuses plying the Chisipiti and Kamfinsa routes are causing more disruptions to daily businesses of ordinary Hararians.
Council has, of late, been confrontational. The more it confronted illegal vendors, the more it faced rebellion. The problems are the hallmarks of council’s bad strategies because of failure to face the problem, mistaking goals for strategy and bad strategy objectives.
As things stand, with what is obtaining on the ground, the 2025 Vision looks blurred.