Zimbabwe's Unemployed Survive On Vending

Martha Matapure’s day starts at 4 am when she visits the Mbare Musika market to buy merchandise, which she sells on the side of a street in Harare’s Eastlea suburb. She looks after her orphaned three grandchildren.

Matapure worked at a clothing company, which closed in 2007 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) 84 percent of working class Zimbabweans are unemployed.

Hundreds of people line up the streets of Harare’s Central Business Streets (CBD) to sell all kinds of merchandise from vegetables to cell phones. Vendors also wait along the country’s highways selling to travellers.

“I don’t expect anything from the government that’s why I have learnt to struggle by myself,” said Matapure while preparing her vending space at the corner of McChlery Avenue and Robert Mugabe road in Harare. “We are struggling, there are no jobs. At my age I should have been enjoying my pension but here I am still struggling with life. This government exists for other people not for me.”

Francis Tachireva, a fruit vendor, who is married with two children, lost his job at a vehicle assembling company in 2007 and since then he has failed to get a job.

“These days you can’t expect to get a job anywhere unless if you have a relative in a position of influence,” said Tachireva.

Despite that many people have turned to vending to fend for their families, the City of Harare charges $125 a month for mobile vending and $35 for selling at one place.

Many of the vendors say they make an average of $100 a month and therefore cannot afford to pay the fees.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Harare City Council (HCC) recently launched a joint operation to drive vendors out of the city although sometimes the raids are violent.

In January several police officers were left injured and a police post in the centre of town destroyed.