Ten provinces later and one wonders if this country has a university or universities offering degrees in vending. The rate at which these universities are rolling out qualified vendors beats any program on offer and surely accounts for the highest number of paid workers. Like most of the workforce in the country they are unionised. Yes, most of them fall under a union called the Venders Union and through this organ they are able to fight for industry related rights such as the right to sell on the street and everywhere else they see fit.One can not undermine the economic battles being fought by men and women, be they younger or older,who frequent the busy streets of Zimbabwean towns and cities. The fruits of these battles manifest themselves in the form of food on the tables of many homes, school fees, rental fees, hospital fees and many other basic amenities that are met. They manage to make an honest living and in a country where crime is on the rise and this can not be ignored.
However despite these heroic actions one tends to wonder if this economic activity is the pinnacle of empowerment and development in a country so endowed with a highly educated populace. Clearly it presents a myriad of indicators that reflect the dis-empowerment of our people. These include the marginalisation of women into the periphery of the economy as shown by the higher numbers of women who dominate the trade; the denial of children who accompany vending parents of their basic right to play, proper care, early childhood education; inaccessibility of conducive places of work; poor and slow planning in relevant urban development by local government as well as the scarcity of economic opportunities including work.
It was until recently that one could find on the streets a vendor who is qualified at diploma or degree level. In-fact at some point even a person with O’Level qualifications could not imagine going on the streets to sell anything for a living. There seemed to be a formal job for every level of education and regular training in the workplace ensured that a person with low qualifications was upgraded and remained relevant. With scores of high school, college and university graduates leaving to find the job market saturated by less than 20% of the working population.
It is worrying that Zimbabwe a proud nation with the highest literacy level, at 90%, on the continent is educating for the streets. It is even more worrying that our leadership is not worried about this trend. Instead the political leadership of this nation celebrates this newfound entrepreneurial opportunity by turning the streets of our towns and cities into perpetual ‘musikas‘ which are proliferating everywhere. With this opening of market space it beckons the educated populace to embrace the challenge, create your own job, be an entrepreneur!! It turns a blind eye on its inability to provide work and no investment is done into providing a proper workspace, no planning is made for water and sanitation. What educated Zimbabwean wants to spent a whole day for the next year experiencing the variations of our weather pattern, what educated person wants to spent a whole day shouting and chanting “dollar for 2!!, dollar for 2!!”, what learned Zimbabwean wants to practice the art of hiding their goods and weaving swiftly through potential customers from the city council police, what educated Zimbabwean wants to spent the next lifetime selling cheap Chinese goods. Yet with all the intelligence attributed to the Zimbabwean citizen the skills exhibited on our streets show that the 90% literacy rate is just but a rare qualification in vending studies.
Is vending the best our leaders can offer. Whilst, for the sake of our day-to-day survival, one would urge these galant economic soldiers to continue with their trade the same soldiers should be encouraged to ask if this is the best offer they can get. Surely this government must be able to put a better deal on the table, after all we are an educated and hardworking people.