The Herald (Harare)

3 May 2014

Zimbabwe: When Everyone Turns to Vending for Survival

In the olden days, vendors were largely elderly women of limited education who were distinguishable by tattered aprons filled with countless coins, but the complexion of the game has changed.Appearance matters not these days.

The swanky gentleman or blonde-haired chic next to you may be a vendor

Everyone, from the least-paid to the bigwigs in an organisation, is selling something to get by.

Goods sold may differ from person-to-person depending on one's station in life and location, but the bottom line is that goods are changing hands in exchange for cash at lightning speed.

So aggressive have today's traders become that they have abandoned traditional market-places to wring cash from people in churches, police stations, pavements, toilets, prisons and even in mineshafts.

"After I won the Oscar, my salary doubled, my friends tripled, my children became more popular at school, my butcher made a pass at me, and my maid hit me up for a raise," remarked American actress and singer Shirley Jones.

And she was not wrong because people fight to make a sale wherever they see a market.

It is not unusual to enter a public toilet today and be asked to buy a wristwatch and cellphone charger by a guy in this smelly facility.

In kombis people are doing the same.

Body-hugging suits and prohibited butt-enlarging pills like Apetito are being sold in kombis and on pavements. CDs changes hands in these vehicles too.

Most people now no longer miss church services, not for the love of God, but the need to push their goods and services.

And they have a way of putting it which makes it sound as though it is normal yet -- during his prophetic vocation -- Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

He told them point blank: "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robbers' den."

We hear some parishioners jostle to buy cars from their church leaders on the belief that the vehicle would be blessed and has little prospects of being involved in accidents. Such transactions are done in church, while people are holding Bibles to give the deals a holy outlook.

Gentle reader, the quest to earn an extra dollar is making people shameless. And some of these people selling in churches are pastors' wives and a host of other people who grew up reading the scriptures.

"Madzimai eJerusarema musayeperwa. Shandisai maoko enyu kuti muwane kuraramisa mhuri. Mwari anobatsira anozvibatsirawo," you hear women saying to advertise their wares while shamelessly clutching bibles.

So daring have these people become that they even sell cooked food within church premises.

The situation is the same at police stations.

People are taking pretty long to be attended to as police officers on duty will be busy selling each other cellphones and other electrical gadgets in the charge office.

"Asikana, asikana mukasatenga satellite dish randakauya naro munenge marasikirwa. Ndakauya neakawanda ende mutengo wacho unenge kupa pachena," the cops will be saying at the expense of people queuing to pay fines or report different cases that would have happened.

Did you know that some children are failing to realise meaningful grades in public examinations because of the misdeeds of their teachers, yet parents would have paid through their noses?

Instead of covering syllabuses with their classes, teachers are always on buses to South Africa where they import trinkets like perfumes, blankets and some electricals for resale.

Upon their return, they then start sending the same deprived pupils from one corner to the other making deliveries and collecting cash.

"Ndianiko akangwarira muclass muno?" the teachers will always say before sending children away to the shops at the expense of their studies.

Is the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education aware that this is what is happening, hence the sharp decline in pass rates?

Zimbabweans are now full-time vendors because of the need to keep their heads above the water in this prevailing harsh economic tide.

Employers are being made to bite the shortest end of the stick in employment contracts because they are paying full value to people who spend the better part of the day doing personal errands at the expense of their duties.

"Those from whose pocket the salary is drawn, and by whose appointment the officer was made, have always a right to discuss the merits of their officers, and their modes of exercising the duties they are paid to perform," Charles Babbage said, but no one cares to listen. Office vending has risen to alarming levels, gentle reader.

Workers are selling eggs, chicken, vegetables, perfumes and other small consumables during working hours.

Managers -- because they are not having it rosy -- leave such things to happen in their departments and have the guts to threaten to deal with defaulters in terms of company rules and regulations even when the transaction in question has nothing to do with people's employment contracts.

Boots of vehicles have largely been turned into shops as people sell this and that to earn a living.

Enterprising women are selling sadza at their workplaces and only God knows whether such food meets the basic hygiene requirements.

While there is nothing wrong in selling to earn a decent living, the way this is being done has reached epidemic proportions.

Inotambika mughetto.

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