Yesterday the ruling ZANU PF in Harare organised its members to clean up the mess that resulted from clashes between police and opposition protesters.
watch informal traders in Harare
The protests disrupted business especially informal trading that occurs in the streets of Harare on a daily basis. On a normal day vendors trade different wares at busy points of the city such as Copacabana and Market Square.
Flea markets for clothes are found at Copacabana and Chinhoyi Street while those selling phone accessories mill around First Street and Ximex Mall. Vegetable vendors are found in almost every street. Some sit on the pavements but the more innovative ones push carts filled with vegetables around town to service more customers.
It is not easy to trade in the streets of Harare or other lucrative spots without being chased away by municipal policy. To avoid this one often has to be a ruling party card carrying member and pay a fee to a party functionary who controls the trading spaces.
Kudzai Masakadza sells clothes at Copacabana which was gutted down by fire during Friday’s protests. The market place is formerly known as Queen of Grace in honour of first lady Grace Mugabe who threw her weight behind the vendors in the past.
Masakadza and others tried in vain to repel protesters who were fleeing from police but by mid day the Copacabana flea market had fallen and was up in flames. ‘We lost our stock to these senseless protests’ he said.
He added “It has become unpredictable to set up a stall here because safety cannot be guaranteed. We don’t have insurance for our wares and if we lose them to fire or looting that’s the end of our businesses”
With civic organisations and opposition groups organising protest after protest which police are crushing violently the violence may escalate. People are agitated with the hardships they are facing due to the collapsing economy and without a solution in sight there may be more of these protests.
Government has also signaled its intention to implement Statutory Instrument 64 to restrict importation of many goods. Many of the goods traded on the streets are imported including fruits and if government is not careful it may face protests from these informal traders too.
“We identify with the protesters because we are also facing an uncertain future under this government but for now we must put food on our tables and we can’t afford these interruptions to business” said a middle aged woman who declined to be named.
Business has been low for these informal traders. It has become harder to import things into the country. The high duties imposed on some goods means the cost of importing has to be passed on to the consumers making the goods on the streets unattractive.
For now informal traders prefer to protect their businesses rather than join others in protest even though they admit that their future is also bleak. “Politics doesn’t help mdhara, it’s better to just try make ends meet in the difficult conditions” Masakadza says fiddling with his clothes.
The risk of getting involved in politics is too great as one might lose their lucrative trading spot if they are discovered to be getting involved in protests that undermine the ruling party. Most informal traders therefore prefer not to engage in risky political activities that can jeopardize their economic interest.
Meanwhile political parties have announced that there will be another protest nest Friday. In reply ZANU PF youths have vowed to crush the protests.