A hideout is where a writer disappears to concentrate undisturbed or a robber finds a place to keep his goods. But recently I heard the word used of a man who works in the informal sector. He had to hide away in order to work. He could find no 'legal' place. If he wanted one he had to wa

it while bureaucracy trudged its unhurried way and then he would have to pay.
So he prefers to just get on with his work but out of sight. If local government authorities find him he may be reported to the police and have his tools and his wares confiscated. If the Electricity Authority (ZESA) discovers him using a welder ‘at home’ they too may prosecute him.
But if there are hindrances from without there are others from within. People hide their intentions from their work colleagues. There is a huge market for bricks. Our exiles are sending cash home and they want houses built. But in a small brick-making project the workers cannot agree with their managers who want transparent accountancy. ‘They are too strict.’ In other words the managers want receipts. So the project has come to a halt even though the market, the capital and the resources are there.
Projects fail because we do not think them through and we do not commit ourselves to the process that will make them work. Thorns are still choking us (Matthew 13:7). Zimbabwe itself is a ‘project.’ It was started with enthusiasm but soon hindrances appeared – from without and within.
From outside there was the obvious example of ESAP, which everyone now recognizes did more harm than good. But from inside too there are blockages to progress where people want quick results – ‘Sweet without sweat.’
For six years or more we have watched the great project decline and we have searched the horizon for signs of change. Have we seen any? Yes. Despite the twisting and turning people do to make the ‘economy’ work for them there are signs of planning and working for a better tomorrow. For example, these ‘hideout’ industries, small as they are, teach people creativity and resilience.
If you want to make something work you have to be ingenious. You have to find a way through all the hindrances. Even finding spare parts may be a nightmare. You may not find them here. You may have to head for South Africa. Crossing that border today is a challenge in itself. Everything resists us these days: money, borders, laws, permits, premises, credit, transport – even our own colleagues.
Anyone who faces some or all of these is learning a lot along the way. Whether we know it or not, we are producing a nation of initiators just waiting to come out of their hideouts.

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