On Friday afternoon there was drama along Bessemer Road in Graniteside, Harare. Harare City Council officials came to raid vendors who line up the road to sell an assortment of goods from plastic dishes, buckets, throw-overs to underwear. Most of these vendors migrated from the central business district when President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced lockdown measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in March.
Soldiers and police were deployed to make sure very few people had access to the city centre, one had to have a good reason to make their way into the city, otherwise the soldiers would turn them back, without giving room for negotiation. In a country that is largely informal, people who survive by buying and selling had to find an alternative.
Graniteside is supposed to be an industrial hub for manufacturers, but most warehouses are now just shells, where there is activity, no production is taking place. Instead, the majority of businesses import from China and use the industrial area for wholesale and retail.
Local manufacturing has been hamstrung by lack of foreign currency, power shortages and the dollarisation years did not help much for the US$ was overvalued, so local products could not compete in international markets. Low levels of manufacturing have attracted a different kind of business by the Chinese — plastic moulding. Plastics would be the attraction for mostly women and other vendors.
It is only proper that City of Harare moves the vendors because they do not have hawkers’ licences and have no access to ablution facilities. They do not practice social distancing in line with Covid-19 regulations, but as bystanders we witnessed the law being applied selectively. Some vendors lost wares, but others were left untouched, why?