Trying to eke a living in the streets of Harare is a 15yr old Tariro whose parents died of HIV/AIDS when she was only 10. It is 5years now. At the age of 15 Tariro is now a breadwinner in the filthy streets of Harare. She looks over her young brother aged 11. She has been unfortunate in life. Whilst, other young children are blowing candles, cutting cakes and licking ice-cream on their birthdays, Tariro is busy rummaging and sifting through the garbage. As others are singing ‘happy birthday to you’ Tariro is burying her head in the mountain of garbage searching for plastic bottles. Thanks so much to the city fathers who have been inefficient in cleaning the city. Innocent souls like Tariro can now eke a living. There is nobody to take care of Tariro and her younger brother especially in these difficult times of economic meltdown. Life in Harare is now a survival of the fittest. Tariro has also discovered that, you have to hustle in order to make it economically and financially.
Unlike some other dormant towns were life is slow and dull, Harare the so called Sunshine City is full of activity. But, to survive you have to fight hard. Everyone in Harare seems to be in a hustling mood. With the dilapidated economy many Harareans have been forced into the informal economy. It is mostly the women folk who are engaged in various entrepreneurial activities like vending, hawking etc. With babies on their backs you could easily spot them standing at the road intersections selling air time vouchers (mobile credits). That is life for you in Harare. Some are just sited in the pavements of various buildings selling vegetables, needles, stockings, tie, wallets, biscuits and plastic bags. At a tender age, Tariro has also joined hundreds if not thousands of people who are trying to eke a living in the streets of Harare.
However, her business seems to be unique. She has been pushed into the business of scavenging and garbage collection. Mainly Tariro collects plastic containers especially 500ml of empty fizzy drinks from the Central Business District. These empty containers have a ready market in recycling industries scattered all over the heavy and light industrial sites in Harare. As of late, many waste management firms have withdrawn collection services across the capital Harare, citing a lack of gasoline, spare parts and equipment. Eventually, garbage has become a common sight in the central business district. Harare was at one point a marvel of many. One begins to wonder. What happened to the Sunshine City we used to emulate and take pride in? Harare used to be exceptionally smart, to an extent that it was named a Sunshine City. But as to date, it is becoming hard if not difficult for the city to restore itself to its former glory of being a Sunshine City. What happened to the tantalizing scent and fresh breeze of sunshine city? What happened to those beautiful Jacaranda trees?
Our daily newspapers have been awash with the reports of corruption in our local municipal councils. From the newspaper and news headlines we can glean that all is not well when it comes to the administration of our once precious city of Harare. We are forced to believe that the city fathers have abandoned the needs of the citizenry at the expense of ‘corrupt activities’ that include opaque issuance of tender bids, parceling of stands and collection of various taxes etc. As we drive in the congested streets of Harare we are greeted with potholes and garbage strewn all over. Sooner or later, these potholes will become boreholes.
Our streets have become dangerous especially at night. Streets kids and streets fathers are scattered all over the corners of the city. Lovebirds now fear to take a stroll during the night, gazing at the beautiful neon lights. We all now fear to walk during the night. Some areas have become hot spots, as they are poorly lit. Dysfunctional traffic lights also make life more difficult for both pedestrians and motorists. Harare is now experiencing epileptic power supply time and again. But be reminded, Zimbabwe we have one of the richest alluvial diamond deposits in the world.
We are also now used to receiving erratic water supply such that public toilets now produce a strong stench. We are told in the second largest city in Zimbabwe in Bulawayo residents are being advised to wait and flush the toilets once per day. Never mind the health repercussions! Also bear in mind that we have vast dams just to name Wenimbe dam (Marondera) and Osborne Dam. Brothels are also on the increase making brisk business. We only hear of empty threats of closing them. But no action is being taken. We are tempted to think that the owners of these brothels are the politically connected, the guys up there!
Our mothers are now selling macimbi (worms from mopane trees), biltong (dried chunks of meat), and roasted nuts at the entrance of most clubs in Harare. It seems people are just doing as they please in search of survival. Young girls of the age of Tariro are selling their bodies. Prostitution has become a pastime in Zimbabwe. Avenues and Strathaven has become common with prostitutes. These are the Red Lights of Zimbabwe. Used condoms are just strewn all over in our capital. Commuter omnibus are just picking passengers (commuters) from undesignated terminuses. Satellite dishes are dotted at the roof of every flat in town. Everything just seems haphazard. What happened to our Sunshine City?
Children pick up rotten eggs from a heap of uncollected garbage in Mbare, a township southwest of Harare, Zimbabwe. Innocence and purity is written all over their faces. But the pythons of poverty are eating through to their hearts!
“The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.” Charles Dickens.