Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa (Volume 11, No.2, 2009)
Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pennsylvania
INFORMALITY, DECEIT AND THE CONSCIENCE: A SURVEY ON ETHICAL DILEMMAS
Department of Rural & Urban Planning, University of Zimbabwe
The engagement by households in the informal economy is not only a headache to local authorities in
the developing countries but also heartache to the households themselves (comprising students, full-time
street vendors, and formal private or public officials. This paper maps the diversity of ethical dilemmas
which households and practitioners undergo. Doing something contrary to one’s belief and value
systems 'pricks' conscience; they have but acted against their wish. From a spatial viewpoint, the whole
urban Harare, is somewhat littered by a host of urban dwellers who are acting contrary to their life
goals, at least in light of their career planning and personal aspirations. It is a sphere with destabilized
personalities. One then wonders the kind of overall urban milieu that results from this development.
This paper explores the survival coping strategies by Harare residents - including informal traders and
those practicing it within the formal sector terraces. This is in the period of economic and social
hardships in the city and the country as a whole. The idea is to get insight on the sustainable
development debate which has topped academic and think-tank circles in the recent years. The author
argues that if ever informal trade engagers should be examined ethically, whatever portrait they give
outwardly; it is less the reality of what they feel, think, or perceive. The majority feel betrayed by life.
They are acting in deceit, in hypocrisy – the drama of life. The paper is largely a product of informal
interviews and interactions with informal traders (street vendors, squatters) and formal employers in
both the public and private sector in Harare. An anecdotal approach was adopted which, in turn, gave
way to some content analysis of the stories told. Literature review and scanning of news briefs was
found critical to the understanding of a number of concepts.
INFORMAL SECTOR ENGAGEMENT IN HARARE: AN OVERVIEW
The informal sector continues to surge in the urban sphere of Harare, like most cities in any country of
the developing world (Chirisa, 2007, 2008; Hlohla, 2008). The principal reason cited is the lack of
formal employment alternatives (Matsebula, 1996; Chirisa, 2007; Hlohla, 2008). In Zimbabwe, the
percentage of unemployment rate has, of late, been pegged at eighty percent (Hlohla, 2008;
http://www.indexmundi.com). Profoundly speaking, it is not that jobs are non-existent, but that the
existing jobs are not commensurately remunerated. This gives us a clue that employment is not about the
availability of jobs in a given setting, but the notion and practice largely hinge on the benefits attached
to the available job. A job is, therefore, an antidote to stoic sacrifice for duty. In this case, employment is
only employment if it allows a household to meaningfully maintain itself, that is, if it promises some
kind of surplus - income - which allows the household to keep itself to the next day with a minimum
number of shocks.
In Zimbabwe, in the period around 2005 to 2007, the private sector employee was still better off than the
public (civil) servant, in terms of remuneration. During that time urban poverty was synonymous with
public servility (Chirisa, 2007). Now, even the private sector - including the banking sector - is
complaining about meagre salaries and allowances. Most households have concluded that it has become
more profitable to be outside the working bracket than to be in it; as well as to be in the Diaspora than in
the country. For this reason, a great number of Zimbabweans have left the country for greener pastures,
particularly in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, to name these three. The migration also extends to
countries outside the region, especially in the United Kingdom and other countries in the West. This is
typically the voting by feet, quite elaborated by Gaidzanwa (1999), with reference to nurses and doctors
during the era of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme - ESAP. Now the pace and impact
has intensified. Life has become harder for the ordinary Zimbabwean than ever before, hence the option
for questing respite elsewhere.
Stories are told everywhere about former teachers and headmasters who left the country and have begun
doing menial jobs in the neighbouring countries. Yet, now without the white collar title, they are now
earning a thousandfold of what they were earning in Zimbabwe. This, in the terms of MacCann (2001),
is quite explicable in the disequilibrium model of migration which postulates that a place with a
shrinking economy will lose out its labour force to that with a vibrant one.
If ever there has been a point in time when Zimbabweans have been ‘scattered’ across the globe, it is
this epoch. Table 1 indicates how the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe has grown and stagnated from
2003 to 2008. This implies the growth of the self-employment sector.
Table 1: Estimates Of Zimbabwe’s Employment Rate, 2003-2008
YEAR UNEMPLOYMENT RATE RANK PERCENT CHANGE DATE OF INFORMATION
2003 70.00 % 2 2002 est.
2004 70.00 % 3 0.00 % 2002 est.
2005 70.00 % 192 0.00 % 2002 est.
2006 80.00 % 198 14.29 % 2005 est.
2007 80.00 % 195 0.00 % 2005 est.
2008 80.00 % 195 0.00 % 2005 est.
Nevertheless, not everybody has left the suppressed-salaried formal employment sector. What seems to
surprise everybody is why these employees still hang in their positions and places of work. If, for
instance, one gets paid a salary with allowances of two hundred billion dollars (about US$3 but his
budget for a month gets to two hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollars - about US$250, real time gross
settlement –RTGS rate) the big question is: why go to work at all? Is it adroit optimism? Is it some kind
of naivety or foolishness? One answer given is that things will one day get better; it will not be difficult
for one to continue in his position. This, we might call, speculative hang-around. But another reason is
cited, that of getting other means of survival using the present office or position. This, we shall call
going to work to find work or survivalist snowballing. In this arrangement there are a host of quandaries
and dilemmas. It is based on informal networks or there is what can be termed informalisation of the
professional conduct. This is the reality of most of the people still going to work under the difficult
times in Zimbabwe, especially those with pronounceable fringe benefits like houses and cars.
THE RISE OF ECONOMIC FALL AND EXPLANATIONS
It should be pointed out that it has never been well for the country since 1997. The country began
experiencing conspicuous economic doldrums during 1997. It was the date when a marked number of
mass stay-aways, sit-ins, go-slows, food riots, and the first tectonic slide of the Zimbabwean dollar were
noted. Yet, again, one can point out that these were nothing but repercussions of the shift by the nation
from hardcore socialism of the 1980s to the market economy of the 1990s (Chirisa, 2007). The shift was
dramatic. Discontinuities and ideological shifts (in this case, from socialism to capitalism) are usually
synonymous with social upheaval and suffering, especially if they relate to ideology.
Economic hardships brought about by the structural adjustments of the economy coupled with
inflationary cycles and reduced productivity produced a socio-economic miasma. The ejection of white
farmers by the instrument of the fast track land resettlement programme (FTLRP) at the turn of the
decade into the new millennium also had colossal ripple effects so cross-sectional to the entire economy
that both the rural areas and urban areas felt the same pinch alike. Folks then engaged in informal
activities by either deliberate design or default. A hard-pressed household had no choice but to devise
survival coping strategies (ibid). This has ranged from street vending, making market of the home, cross
border trading, conducting ‘extra lessons’, and opening up some briefcase consultancy firm, to name but
A psycho-social analysis of the problem would reveal that the informal traders (Chirisa, 2007) are faced
with a number of ethical dilemmas. This is because most of the time these actors are nothing but victims
of circumstances. What a dramatisation of victimhood in the urban centres – needless to talk about the
rural communal sphere and the newly resettled areas!
Imagine a poor HIV and AIDS widow with a small market stall where she sells vegetables and earns
only about the equivalence of US$30 per month (after a hard sweating). Her landlord demands that she
pays some equivalence of US$40 dollars in hard currency for rent (refer to Box 1).
BOX 1: LANDLORD ARRESTED FOR RENTALS IN FOREX
A Westlea landlord has been arrested for charging rentals in foreign currency as police step up their war
against unscrupulous property owners who charge rentals in foreign currency. The landlord, Charity Chidau
was stunned when a letter she wrote advising her tenant that rentals had been revised to US$60 with effect
from one August was produced as evidence. According to the letter, the tenant who is renting two rooms
was supposed to pay US$60 as opposed to 200 Rand that she had been paying. Speaking off camera for
fear of victimisation the tenant said it is not fair to demand hard currencies from someone who is earning
Zimbabwean dollars. Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said the police force will keep alert
and bring to book anyone found breaching the law.
SOURCE: ZBC Newsnet (Tue, 29 Jul 2008): http://www.newsnet.co.zw
The landlord gives an explanation that things are getting harder on his part. He stresses that he must live
by the proceeds of rent from the extra rooms that he built as outbuildings that he lets. He argues that he
cannot receive the rent in the form of the Zimbabwean dollar because it is fast losing its value. What
would such a poor woman do? Such is the kind of reality faced by urban Zimbabwe in the contemporary
times. Meanwhile the National Income and Pricing Commission (NIPC), established to rationalise prices
and incomes in 2006, continues to promise the public that it is making frantic efforts to rectify such
distortions (The Sunday Mail, 2008). The same stance is shared with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(see Box 2).
BOX 2: NEW CASH MEASURES ON WAY: GONO
From Bulawayo Bureau
RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono is set to announce comprehensive measures
anytime this week that will see maximum cash withdrawals being upped to figures that will end the cash
crisis. Later in a hastily organized Press conference, Dr Gono took the opportunity to warn businesses and
individuals who were charging for their goods and services in foreign currency. He said such people risked
getting arrested either by the police or RBZ officials.
"Conducting business in foreign currency is illegal. No rentals or goods should be charged in forex.
Dollarisation — that is using the currency of another country — is not a position that we have taken. We
are not in that situation yet. Report all such persons, including those who are selling cash (Zimbabwean
dollars) to the nearest police station or RBZ officials," he said.
Due to restriction of cash withdrawals to only $100 billion for a long period of time, some dealers with
access to cash through corrupt bank officials and those in the liquor business were selling cash to desperate
Zimbabweans. The money was sold at rates that range between 20 percent and 50 percent and the figure
would be upped depending on how desperate the customer was.
SOURCE: Sunday Mail (Sunday, July 27, 2008): http://www1.sundaymail.co.zw
It is important to look at the issues more closely after conceptualisation. This is critical for one to
appreciate the many dimensions of the thrust of this paper and have an insight of what the contemporary
Harare is like.
A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
This section gives explanations and meanings to terms and concepts used in the construct of this paper.
Ethics and ethical dilemmas are discussed at some great length, as well as the aspect of deceit. A
snapshot approach is applied, hence no exhaustiveness of the conceptualisation is assumed.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04268a.htm) defines ethics as
“…conduct or regulated life”. Sidgwick (1967: 296) asserts that ethics can be “…constituted of nothing
but moral ideas and rules which the social organisation in any period has evolved.” Robinson and Yeh
(2007:3) outline some five dimensions of morality, namely:
• Morality as responsibility: i.e. acting in accordance with other people's concerns, rights, and
expectations. That means not only refraining from doing things that cause harm to others, but
also actively pursuing their welfare – it implies the imperative to do as we say and believe.
• Morality as concern for others: i.e. understanding how others experience a loss; for example, this
compels us to not want to impose a loss on another.
• Morality as reason: i.e. they should be justifiable according to an objective set of criteria.
• Morality as consistency: i.e. similar cases are treated similarly without double standards.
• Morality as universality: i.e. the same conditions must be applied to all concerned.
Rules and ideas constituting ethics and morality are relative to any given society and have value or
validity only with relation to it which idea points to the notion of norms and standards (Sidgwick, 1967).
These are ‘instruments’ by society, or a fraternity, to direct its people’s lives and conduct. “If the
standard is wrong, then the conduct itself will also be wrong, for it will be wrongly assessed” (Bromiley,
1948:25). This brings about the notions of deviation vis-à-vis conformity.
Yet, Bromiley insists that the standard of conduct is the outcome of belief, which in turn is the result of
aim. The concept of aim can be taxonomised into social aim, religious aim, and Christian aim. Social
aims, according to Bromiley, are fourfold, namely altruistic (the desire to be helpful to others),
utilitarian (a quest to promote the greatest possible benefit to the greatest possible number), social
(ordering life in such a way that nobody gets harmed), and legal (fulfilling the duties or obligations
owed to the social group, family, city, state, or even humanity as a whole). All these augur well to the
doctrine of the ‘public interest’, which is a pinnacle idea of social science. The religious aim has it that
the “…unifying principle is always God, although God is thought of in different ways” (Bromiley 1948:
18). It includes the evolutionary thought of pantheism (the view that God is the spirit active and
manifested in the things of the world yet without any higher independent existence), aestheticism (the
thought which starts off with a conception of a God as perfect beauty, goodness, and truth), and ethicism
(which relates to general Theism, the idea of God as a Person, who rules, and makes demands). The
Christian aim sees God as the Creator and Redeemer of all creation and desiring ever to establish a
permanent relationship with humanity. It sees humanity as subsisting of a “fallen nature” whose
restitution to the ‘space of glory’ is doable only through the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living
God. When humanity realises this and craves to ‘walk that path’ then it has “a reasonable aim”
(Bromiley 1948). This, to many theologians, is the foundation of true ethics because it works with the
‘heart of the heart’ – conscience, which they say is more of ‘the police’ within humanity than anything
“Act from a principle or maxim that you will to be a universal law” (Sidgwick (1967:299). This
statement shows the transcendence of actions from heart conviction. Thus, a heart conviction translates
into action. This brings about the element of culture. Culture is the product of homogenisation of
individual acts and practices in a given community at some given time and place. As the group or
community dances to the fashion and fads of their beliefs and actions, they develop rules, norms, and
standards to govern their conduct. These are the hallmark of ethics. They develop ethics in a bid to
establish the sacrosanct standing of themselves. But, usually, they do so within the sphere and
framework of universal law.
White (1993) defines ethics as that “…branch of philosophy that explores the nature of moral virtue and
evaluates human actions.” He opines that philosophical ethics differs from legal, religious, cultural, and
personal approaches to ethics by seeking to conduct the study of morality through a rational, secular
outlook that is grounded in notions of human happiness or well-being. Further, he points out that the
major advantage of a philosophical approach to ethics is that it avoids the authoritarian basis of law and
religion, as well as the subjectivity, arbitrariness, and irrationality that may characterize cultural or
totally personal moral views. Moreover, White asserts that, in general, there are two traditions in modern
philosophical ethics regarding how to determine the ethical character of actions. One argues that actions
have no intrinsic ethical character but acquire their moral status from the consequences that flow from
them. The other tradition claims that actions are inherently right or wrong (for instance, lying, cheating,
stealing). The former is called a teleological approach to ethics, and they are result-orientated, and the
latter, deontological (act-oriented). Having said that on ethics, it is important to try and define what a
A dilemma is defined by the Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1948:282) as, firstly “… an argument
presenting an antagonist with two or more alternatives (or “horns”), but equally conclusive against him,
whichever he chooses; and, secondly, “…a situation involving choice between equally unsatisfactory
alternatives”. The synonym is cited as a “predicament”. The definitions are rich in that they point out
that there is a player/actor/character who is guided by some standard. He/she is confronted with a
situation that requires choice. The circumstances have lethal and toxic implications to his/her belief
systems or what is expected of him/her. Thus, the antagonist is nothing but like a cornered rat; escaping
from the unhealthy situation is a mammoth task. Ethical dilemmas are also referred to as ‘ethical
paradoxes’. They involve a lot of intrapersonal (and also interpersonal) conflict. To resolve the dilemma
White (n.d.) suggests three steps, namely analysing the consequences, analyzing the questions, and
making the decision.
Boyle (n.d.) categorises common ethical dilemmas into a fourfold distinction, namely truth vs. loyalty,
which is about personal honesty and integrity versus promise-keeping and obligations to others;
individual vs. community: interests of the one or few weighed against those of the more or many; short-
term vs. long-term: real concerns of the present weighed against investment for the future; and justice
vs. mercy: fair and equal application of the rules vs. compassion for the individual. One would also
observe that ethical dilemmas are often spoken of in light of professionalism or the business discourse. It
is, thus, almost taken as an anomaly to speak of the subject with reference to the informal or extra-legal
sector. Note well that extra-legality is not the same as illegality though the proneness of the latter in the
former can be very high. The issues are tied to the aspect of deception, which is a kind of hypocrisy with
inter- and intra-personal underpinnings.
According to Anolli et al (2001), deception is “…a kind of miscommunication and a chance in
communication terms, since deceptive miscommunication greatly enhances the degrees of freedom at
the communicator’s disposal.” They point out that it represents another route to express the speaker’s
sensations, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and desires; likewise, at communication level, it may be really
advantageous to have the chance of hiding, omitting, concealing or, simply, blurring information. “After
all, truth is not a matter of black or white, and deceptive communication may be an opportunity both in a
Machiavellian, opportunistic sense and in an everyday relational situation” (Anolli et al, 2001). Further,
they assert that deception, as an articulated and complex miscommunication act, is emblematic of
adaptive behaviour in interpersonal relational management, with the aim of influencing others' beliefs.
Bermúdez further observes that the philosophical discussion of self-deception aims at providing a
conceptual model “…for making sense of a puzzling but common mental phenomenon.” He asserts that
the models proposed fall into two groups – the intentionalist and the anti-intentionalist. He highlights
that the intentionalist approach to self-deception analyses the phenomenon on the model of other-
deception - what happens in self-deception is parallel to what happens when one person deceives
another, except that the deceiver and the deceived are the same person. Anti-intentionalist approaches, in
contrast, stress what they take to be the deep conceptual problems involved in trying to assimilate self-
deception to other-deception. Bermúdez (n.d.) goes on to show that many of the arguments appealed to
by anti-intentionalists suffer from failing to specify clearly enough what the intentionalist is actually
Having outlined some explanations of the key terms to the paper, an elucidation of them is necessary
using the developments and manifestations in Harare as case examples.
CASES OF INFORMALITY IN HARARE
As noted earlier by Chirisa (2007), the number of cases of squatting (and other informality) in Harare
has been on the increase despite the attempt by the government to ‘annihilate’ the sector by way of
Operation Murambatsvina (OM) in 2005. The negative ripple effects have had a wide variety of social,
economic, psychological, planning, and environmental implications. For example, the following
questions can be asked: What is the meaning of uncollected garbage on a premise or in a neighbourhood
when everybody cherishes the aesthetic beauty of a place (for example, as portrayed in the preamble of
the Regional, Town, and Country Planning Act, 1976, revised 1996; or the Environmental Management
Act, 2004)? What can be done to lighten the burden of the poor (the homeless, the unemployed, to name
these two) when in effect, the help himself is struggling with life to make ends meet? How are pressures
of life and the available means (most of the times labelled as illegal, informal, and unconventional) to be
made congruent? How is balance to be achieved between universal expectations and individual pressure
realities? Trying to answer these questions is very difficult. In Harare, the plight of the poor is very
patent and clear.
Accommodation and Conditions of Living
Regarding accommodation, the problem in the city has worsened by day since 2005. For this reason,
one can argue and say that low density residential areas (LDRAs) no longer maintain their disposition as
low density areas. This is because of the spongy nature that these areas have exhibited in the past three
years. They have absorbed population numbers greater and greater than ever before. The density has
reduced from about one person per three hundred square metres in the past to as low as one person per
forty square metres. These areas (LRDAs) have assumed a ‘refugee holding’ status. Most of those
sections who could not leave the city for rural areas, during and after Operation Murambatsvina, decided
to be accommodated here.
It should, retrospectively, be noted that the government, in the course of OM, made recourse in its
demolition spree of unplanned buildings and extensions in the LDRAs. This saved a lot of outbuildings
and like structures, not only in the LDRAs, but also in the middle density residential areas (MDRAs).
High density residential areas (HDRAs1) were, thus, the single worst affected zone of the city of Harare
by OM. Apart from OM triggering urban-rural migration; it also fuelled this diffusionist form of intra-
urban migration. Typically, dozens of once HDRA households flocked to MDRAs and LDRAs2. In this
wave, the migrants were faced with higher rents, relative to those of HDRAs, but to be paid in local
currency (cp: Box 3).
1 These were movements from places like Mbare, Highfield, Mufakose, Kambuzuma, Rugare, Mabvuku, Tafara, Sunningdale, etc.
2 These are areas like Greendale, Avondale, Chisipite, Highlands, Mount Pleasant and the like
BOX 3: OUTCRY OVER HIGH RENTALS
Unjustified residential rent hikes in the urban areas by landlords, have sparked sharp outrage from tenants
who are now struggling to meet the bills threatening to erode their meagre incomes. Rentals for tenants in
the urban areas have shot through the roof, a situation which has left tenants with nothing to save. A survey
made by Newsnet in Harare revealed that rental charges for a single room are ranging from six thousand
dollars to twenty thousand dollars per month. Some house owners have gone to the extent of illegally
evicting tenants in order to accommodate those who can pay. In the low density residential areas, a modest
three-bedroomed house can cost up to one hundred thousand dollars monthly. Landlords argue that the
practice of reviewing lease rentals on an annual basis is no longer economically viable due to inflation,
prompting them to review rentals periodically. Observers say there is however ,a real danger that those who
can not afford existing rentals may end up joining squatter camps that pose health hazards or may share
accommodation to lower the cost per family. With an estimated housing list of about one million two
hundred and fifty thousand people there are not many options for tenants except to lobby for the
intervention of the responsible authorities. The Zimbabwe Tenants and Lodgers Association recently told
the property Gazette that it had petitioned the government to institute laws that would protect tenants from
SOURCE: ZBC Newsnet (Mon, 09 Oct 2006): http:// http://www.newsnet.co.zw
Yet, not many ‘landlords’ were prepared to improve the living conditions of the rooms or outbuildings
that they were letting. Thus, ‘tenants’ stayed in squalid and compromised conditions, sometimes with
five to ten households on the same premise sharing one bath and toilet.
In areas like Mount Pleasant, Cranborne, and Sunningdale, where an excess of university students seek
alternative accommodation in these nearby suburbs, landlords and custodians to residential premises
always have a ready market for some of the rooms on their premises. They let this space to the desperate
students – commoditisation of residential space. Some even provide bunk beds for students, albeit not
paying attention to public health standards. This is tantamount to trading one’s health for cash.
University Students and the Problem of Commuting
Some university students who live in the far away suburbs from campuses have devised all forms of
strategies to manage the expensive trips to and from home and campus. One mode is collective
movement to town. There is a case of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students who have called
themselves University (UBA3) Footers’ Association (UFAs). These students come together and walk the
five kilometre distance together into the city centre and then disperse to their various places of residence
from there. This strategy is social and collective in its approach towards the high fares. Its main problem
is that of fatigue it brings to the walkers which may affect the students’ performance in their academic
The second strategy by students is that of getting to a place where they can be picked up by private cars
or commuter omnibuses. Usually they ask on the level of the fare before getting in. If it is too high for
them, according to their arbitrary judgement and discretion, they do not get in and vice versa.
Sometimes, in the case of pick ups and open lorries, they jump in; connive amongst themselves to pay
very lowly or not to pay at all. When they get to town some may jump out without paying or may pick
on a quarrel with the driver and get away without paying. This strategy can be termed the open trick
approach. It ranges from germane negotiation to rascal irrational conduct.
The third group are those students who disguise as University employees. They get onto the staff bus,
which most of the times is so loaded that there is hardly any sound breathing space. Off the bus, the
student puts off the mantle of university staff membership (the mantle of deceit) and becomes a student
once more. This is changing face to suit a situation.
The questions that stem from this analysis are: Why do they do so deceitfully or shrewdly? Are they
rascally bad as they portray? Should the university lower its enrollment so that the existing facilities
equal the number of students that are given place? How shall the screening be done when they all
qualify? How possible is it to promote electronic learning (e-learning) so that these students learn in
their homes without having each day to face transport challenges? When they do what they do (putting
3 University students call themselves UBAs, if they are male, which they say is: University Bachelors' Association; and,
USAs - University Spinsters' Association, if female.
on stone faces, challenging drivers, deliberately collaterising for a walk), what do they feel inside? What
is the state of their conscience? It should be borne in the mind that about half the student population that
join the university every year are from a peasant background. The author was one such. The poor
student finds himself placed in a totally hostile milieu which he or she must stoically face sometimes
without any adequate resources or urban based relatives to help. What motivates he or she is the
conception that the three, four, or five years between him and his fortune is a conquerable wall. So, he
Informal Sector Enterprise and the Central Business District (CBD)
In the CBD, a number of observations are also notable. Informality has even invaded the formal sector
(Chirisa, 2007). Hlohla (2008) notes that foreign currency exchange (forex) dealers in the CBD are
concentrated in three sites, namely Roadport, Zimex Mall, and Dulys Motors complex. At each and
every mentioned site the population density is in excess of 100 ‘entrepreneurs’. Operators at Dulys
Motors are attracted by the nearby Meikles Hotel and the ever busy Eastgate Complex. It can be
argued that Roadport operators want to take advantage of crossborder traders coming in or going out
of the country. The Zimex Mall concentration is probably explained by clustering of different quasi-
formal businesses in the complex. The dealers have also left the tradition of trade stringency and
adopted diversification. Thus, one has the versatility that allows him or her to be dealing in forex
while also dealing in cellular phones, computer accessories, clothing, etc. Important to note, also, is
the linearity that dealers place themselves in position to attract and serve customers.
Figure 1: Map of Harare CBD and the Avenues
Hlohla observed that in a small area constituting the CBD, there were on average 1,014 vendors,
irrespective of age or sex, operating on daily basis. His survey also indicated that the most congested
site (in terms of informal entrepreneurial activities) is Fourth Street Bus Terminus (at the edge of the
CBD). He mentions that it is probably because of the heavy volume of commuters coming to and
going out of the CBD, using public transport. Furthermore, Hlohla noted that vendor numbers
burgeon along Robert Mugabe Way and Jason Moyo Street, especially after four o’clock in the
afternoon. This is the time the municipal police knock off, the time a great number of office workers
dismiss for home; hence, a time vendors ‘hunt after customers’ (Table 1). Moreover, the survey
revealed that there are those vendors involved in selling items, such as perfumes, watches, belts,
clothes, footwear, just to mention few, highly populated in fronts of shops, chiefly situated along First
Street (particularly, departmental and specialized shops such as Greatermans, Meikles, Barbours,
Clicks, Topics, and Edgars). These sell high order goods. The exception of the shops includes Meikles,
which is along Robert Mugabe Way and Greatermans corner Second Street and Jason Moyo Avenue.
TABLE 1: SHOWING THE DAILY AVERAGE NUMBER OF INFORMAL VENDORS IN THE CBD OF HARARE
Location or Site in the CBD
R. MUGABE ST
FOREX DEALING 192 90 80 56 36 30 - 43 85 612
TAX TOUTING CAR
3 - - 15 - 7 12 20 - 57
17 3 2 10 4 2 2 1 3 44
32 3 2 19 35 2 12 2 5 112
- 2 1 6 6 1 7 2 - 25
- 30 - - - - - - - 30
25 5 2 8 6 2 2 5 4 59
SHOE POLISHING - - - 3 7 2 4 - - 16
3 3 2 12 5 - 10 - - 35
ARTISTS - SIGN
- - - 2 2 8 1 - - 13
CARRIER BAGS - - - - 6 5 - - 11
TOTAL 272 136 89 131 107 54 55 73 97 1014
SOURCE: Hlohla (2008:31)
In light of the preceding paragraphs, one can note that not only do we have vendors in the streets but
also vendors in homes. Focus, however, remains largely on the street vendor who faces a number of
challenges and threats in daily operations. These have, of late, refined their survival strategies in
informal sectors in which the operating environment is risky because the sector is not well catered for
in terms of laws and regulations governing urban centres (Chirisa, 2007; Hlohla, 2008). Some of the
• Starting operations early in the morning before municipal police officers begin work and
remaining on the streets when they knock off (early rise and late keep strategy);
• Using signals and cues to alert one another of any police ‘danger’ or enemy presence during
their course of work (the antagonist communicative strategy);
• Displaying ability-to-do to anyone who asks for any service (shoe repair, cellphone fixing,
computer servicing, etc). Thus, the vendor masks himself/herself as having the ability to meet
the demands of the help-seeker. Then he/she goes to find the real serviceperson (electrician,
cobbler, or the required technician). He/she makes the help-seeker wait, gets in some inside
space/room, negotiates for the price and fixing of say the help-seeker’s gadget, then goes back
with the sorted item or deal. This is part and parcel of the game theory. What he/she does is to
make sure the help-seeker never gets direct help from the professional or technical specialist.
He/she intermediates and manages in keeping the ‘gap’. Such a strategy can be described as the
deceptive intermediation strategy. It maximises on the ignorance of the help-seeker and the
• Displaying posters advertising goods in stock, like textbooks, while hiding the merchandise in
underground holes, back offices, pockets, or other covers (the deceptive commodity and
merchant hiding strategy); and
• Not putting all eggs in one basket, in terms of activities done or businesses conducted (the
general dealership or diversification strategy).
In a nutshell, the informal sector in the city centre takes a number of forms. How ‘business’ is
conducted by the players leaves a lot to be desired in terms of ethics, legal codes, and conscientious
guide. As conflicts might increase in the business, the actors may become hardened in conscience. No-
one cares about his or her ‘neighbour’. But street vending is also on the increase in all parts of the
street. One can observe roadside stalls in many areas including Borrowdale, Marlborough, Msasa,
Highfield, Sunningdale, Budiriro, Glen Norah, Glen View, Mufakose, to name but a few. This signals
the re-emergence of the pre-Murambatsvina arrangement.
Corruption, Religiosity, Bureaucracy, and Professionalism
The aspect of corruption in Harare, like in any other place, is linked to professionalism and bureaucracy.
Matovu (2002), referring to World Bank (2002), asserts that corruption involves the misuse of private
services for private gains. He shows that it manifests in different forms, including acceptance, soliciting
of bribes, nepotism, theft of public goods, and embezzlement. Corruption is noted as one of the major
obstacles to good governance. With increased economic hardships, the cases of corruption have
increased daily as noted in the media, especially the independent newspapers including the
Zimbabwean, Financial Gazette, and the Standard, to name these three. But the actual numbers of cases
are not recorded. This is because the independent press that has been outlined is largely biased towards
‘unearthing corruption’ by political figures, senior government officials, and business tycoons (Box 4).
BOX 4: 1000 CASES OF CORRUPTION DEALT WITH THIS YEAR
As the country joins the rest of the World in commemorating the International Anti-Corruption Day, government says
the Anti-corruption Commission’s Investigation and prosecution Division this year received one thousand and eighteen
reports on corruption. Dr Samuel Undenge said despite limited resources his ministry is operating with, during the year
2007 under review 1018 cases on corruption have been received and referred to other agencies for further investigations.
He said the Prevention and Corporate Governance Division of the Anti-corruption Commission endeavors to nip
corruption in the bud hence the quick reaction on all reported cases. The International Anti-Corruption World day is
commemorated on the 9th of December. Corruption has of late emerged as one of the greatest threats to socio-economic
development the world over. It creates a distorted economy where a minority becomes filthy rich while the majority
sinks into abject poverty.
SOURCE: ZBC Newsnet (Mon, 10 Dec 2007): http://www.newsnet.co.zw
Without delving much into the politics of the issue, the following rhetoric questions are posed regarding
professionalism, corruption, and bureaucracy in Harare, which can equally be said of most places
according to the country’s settlement hierarchy:
• How do we explain a planner, architect, engineer, or land surveyor (to name these few) who
works in a local authority department who draws plans or diagrams for a client, assesses the
same, and approves them all in the same office? How valid is that assessment in light of the ‘who
will police the police’ argument?
• Why does it take longer to approve one document and shorter for another, but of the same quality
• How do we describe a teacher who deliberately ‘confuses’ his class so that those who need ‘real
explanations’ must hire him out for ‘extra-lessons’ at a fee.
• What does it mean to have a medical practitioner who recommends that a patient undergoes a
surgical operation because without such surgical operation the income to the hospital or surgery
will be low? Or, that doctor who writes a prescription addressed to his friend’s pharmacy (though
the patient might not know it)?
• What about the lawyer who keeps on giving his client hope even in a case that he has concluded
to be, by all description, lost for him?
• What about a poor white garment apostolic sect believer, with all her definitions of sin, who sell
cigarettes to her customers literally ‘sending them to hell’, according to her religious doctrine? Is
that not true hypocrisy, malice, and debauchery?
• There is also the shopkeeper who sells one percent of the goods he receives to customers who
come by the counter and sells ninety-nine percent by the backdoor at a price ten times higher
than the 'actual' price (which can be the market price).
• What of the banker who cues his friends to come and withdraw their money form his office
leaving the rest of the other bank customers on the queue for the rest of the day?4
One could go on and on citing these rather awkward examples. What one discovers is a socio-economic
fabric where a good number of professionals are working in an unethical manner for them to meet day to
day their needs. They are the worst of all peoples because society expects them to be of a certain high
status. By investing in education, it was ‘promised’ to them, at least by society and life, that it would be
well with them. Suddenly they find themselves in gross poverty….no option but to indulge in corrupt
practices, grand and petty, chaotic and organised, business and administrative, to name these few.
CONCLUDING REMARKS: WHICH DIRECTION TO TAKE THEN?
The trend in the cityscape of Harare in 2008 shows that there has been a growing demands by dealers,
landlords, etc. that payers should do so in hard currency. This is against the law yet the law has been so
naïve to be effective in protecting the poor urbanites. The situation has been exacerbated by the
stagflation the country is going through; especially that mid-2007 there was a war against shop owners
over price hikes. This produced distrust between the Government and the Business community. In the
countryside, farms failed to yield crop due to a floods followed by drought produced famine. The
thwarting of the non-state sector, particularly Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), has meant an
increased expectation on the urban sector by the rural sector. This is also partly explained by the
‘politics of elections’ that have obsessed the country since the beginning of the year 2008. This
adversely affected rural-urban linkages during this time. In all of these circumstances it has been the
4 Cash shortages have been experienced in Zimbabwe from 2003 and these have be produced most of the bank queues, especially in city and
town centres in the country. Harare as the primate and capital city has been the hardest hit of the problem
poorest of the poor who have had to suffer chronically. They have been macerated and pulverized
beyond recognition. Because of the surmountable pressure, many have lost the discipline of the
conscience and practiced what is a menace to their thinking, feeling, and professional standards. What a
situation of ethical dilemma! What then would be required to deal with the atrocity of the situation:
religion, policy, statutory instrument, repentance, philosophy…?
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