The other day I was in downtown Harare and out of curiosity, I joined a little crowd that had gathered and were being addressed by a young girl who was holding a Queen of Grace Trust card. She was busy trying to convince some women vendors why they should purchase the card.
She said that under ZimAsset the government wanted to help vendors (that’s rubbish of course). I asked her what ZimAsset is as I was “ignorant” of the term (this was of course for the benefit of the audience). She said she wasn’t sure but it’s the government policy of creating jobs. “Oh so ZimAsset is there to create vendor jobs?” I asked – her response was a blank stare. I nearly laughed but had to contain myself.
It is ridiculously easy to dupe the masses.
She then went on to effectively threaten the vendors by stating that it was to their best advantage to buy the card because when the government starts allocating space to vendors, only those with the card would get space. She said vendors had a choice but if they didn’t buy the card they should not complain in the future if they were kicked off the streets because they didn’t have the card “That’s downright blackmail!” I said to the amusement of the vendors, who were now looking at me with awe.
I could not resist asking her who the trustees of this Trust are and what are its objectives? She hesitated and then whispered that Amai Grace Mugabe is the trustee. I asked her what the money collected would be used for. She said that it would be used to protect vendors from eviction from the pavements (another lie!). I gave up and left the crowd who were now getting suspicious of this whole scam. I hope they didn’t buy the cards! But I will not be surprised if they did.
You see for far too long Zanu (PF) has exploited the ignorance of the masses through their empty promises and threats of dispossession. This is the nonsense that is going on in Zimbabwe. The same method was used to allocate stands just before the 2013 elections where thousands of unsuspecting and desperate residents were allocated stands only to be evicted after elections.
Abuse of the poor
It is obvious that Zanu (PF) is trying to use the fate of vendors to its advantage while scaring them with threats of eviction. The recent court case of ZANU (PF) youth leaders who collected thousands of dollars for housing stands is a case in point. The poor continue being abused to enrich political chefs and their touts who end up facing the music alone.
Although most Zimbabweans are literate, they are sadly uninformed of their rights and tend to act out of fear rather than common sense. This makes their literacy useless. We’ve got problems.
The issue of vendors is a political hot potato and I have no doubt we are going to see political parties scrambling to have influence in that constituency because it is growing each day. It appears that Zanu (PF) has a head-start in trying to control it for the 2018 elections. Where are the opposition parties? What are they doing about this clear abuse of people and state infrastructure? Holding a press conferences as usual I guess.
We are cowards
We have been discussing likely scenarios of the future and I am confident that even if things get worse Zimbabweans will not revolt because we are cowards and are only interested in the short term.
Vendors should get organised – as they can be a formidable force indeed. They must not be allocated space by Zanu (PF) touts. They should do it themselves and take responsibility for their circumstances. This will ensure that they cannot be manipulated by politicians. Once again the issue of self-interest is delaying our freedom. Most of our vendors are not willing to sacrifice for the collective and because of that, they will remain vulnerable to Zanu (PF) machinations.
In the Zimbabwe we want we will encourage self-organising citizens’ movements that take responsibility for lawfully creating the circumstances they want and improving their living conditions. Democracy only becomes meaningful when citizens take responsibility for their freedom, but I am afraid that the masses are not there yet. We must educate them on their rights and motivate them that they are the masters of their own destinies.
It is in our interest to make politicians redundant in the future because history has shown us that they always have narrow and selfish interests that are packaged as “people centred” – which is utter rubbish.
In my opinion, the ignorance of the masses is the single and most challenging threat to the development of a free society in Zimbabwe. We’ve got work to do.
– Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]Post published in: Opinions