‘Vendors drive our economy’ – activist on Mugabe’s anti-vendor campaign

Harare – The National Vendors' Union of Zimbabwe chairperson Sten Zvorwadza has accused President Robert Mugabe of being a cause of "misery" on the streets barely a day after getting $200 bail for insulting the veteran leader.

Stendrick Zvorwadza

In an interview with News24, Zvorwadza has blamed Mugabe’s government for the country’s economic crash, adding that the nonagenarian was “going to destroy the country” with his new campaign against street vendors.

He, however, stated that the reality on the ground was likely going to force the government to reconsider its position as “street vendors were the lifeline of the country’s slow economy”.

“The reality in Zimbabwe, and for anyone using common sense, [is that] the government has no capacity to get rid of street vendors; they are only going to bring guns and start beating people. We have since told our members to move away from the streets from the 12th, as we were told that they (law enforcement) were coming.

“There were very few people on the streets when their campaign started. The vendors are going to come back. We are the ones who are driving this economy, and we are trying to make a living by selling on the street,” said Zvorwadza.

According to reports, a number of helmeted riot police on the back of an armoured troop carrier parked on Robert Mugabe Road while vendors apparently packed their wares.

‘Poor leadership’ to blame for people on the streets

The move came after Mugabe last week complained that roads in central Harare, including the one named after him, were dirty and overcrowded with illegal street traders who block traffic.

But according to Zvorwadza, Mugabe’s government was the reason that many people were packed on the street.

“Most Zimbabweans were on the street due to poor leadership, lack of jobs,” he said.

He reiterated his statement that Mugabe was a “dead man walking” who was “daydreaming” and had failed to come up with fresh ideas to rejuvenate the country’s economy.

Zvorwadza was this week charged with insulting or undermining the president in a press interview where he was also quoted as saying that Mugabe was “old” and “daydreaming”.

Zvorwadza is a prominent anti-Mugabe campaigner who has led several demonstrations calling on the veteran leader to step down.

Zimbabwe’s worsening economy has seen many people resorting to informal street vending due to massive unemployment.

‘We are surviving by mere luck’

“The street vendors are the ones sustaining the economy. If the informal economy suffers there would be no economy for Zimbabwe. This is why we are saying that Mugabe is a dead man walking. We say in our culture when a person has no knowledge he is as good as dead.

“In a democratic society that should stand as free speech but in a dictatorship such as ours we are prepared to be incarcerated and jailed for speaking the truth,” added Zvorwadza.

He added that the preparation of the anti-Mugabe constituency to influence change in the forthcoming general election was underway.

He said that getting rid of Mugabe alone was likely not going to yield their desired outcome of a prosperous society; which is why they were fighting to get rid of the country’s corrupt system.

Zimbabwe was last year ranked 154 out of 176 countries on the Transparency International index, which measures public perception of corruption in public institutions.

Corruption in the country mainly consisted of public officials demanding bribes for basic services such as installing electricity meters, approving house plans and facilitating investment, among others.

“Look, Zimbabwe is in a sad state of affairs… we are surviving by mere luck. The same government has been sitting with the same problems for years; they are not doing anything to address it. We want Zim to be redeemed from these evil people… we want a one man, one vote situation. We are calling for equal justice, equal opportunities. We need the government to renew the social contract; it must remember that the people come first,” the anti-Mugabe campaigner said.

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