The Sunday Mail
AS human beings, we need to accept that there are often both comprehensible and incomprehensible life forces around us.
Where Bishop Lazi comes from, for example, you cannot venture deep into the forest to forage for provisions — fruits, animals, wood, etcetera — without respecting the natural forces that inherently lie therein.
Respect is key to unlocking secrets of a much deeper and complex world.
Not surprisingly, rural folk know, as they have always known, that you simply take what you need and want in the forest and nothing more.
Greed goes unrewarded.
You do not carelessly swing your axe on any and every tree for the fun of it.
Recklessness and callousness is forbidden.
And most importantly, you do not use disparaging prefixes to describe anything that you see in the forest.
A loose tongue is cursed.
Indeed the Bishop knows many who were “punished” for this transgression by being tranced and made to aimlessly wonder, zombie-like, in the maze of the forest only to snap out of it after circling hours on end even on well-known and well-travelled paths.
They call it chadzimira (sleepwalking).
Also, where Bishop Lazarus comes from, it was forbidden to bath in the Save River with scented soap.
Whenever someone disregarded this advice, the soap somehow managed to slither into the murky water, never to be recovered.
Not so much for the infamous, unassuming and austere green bar soap.
You would make endless trips with it to the river and lather it out until it slimmed into nothingness. Kikikiki.
To this day, it is not known whether these creatures of the deep — if at all they existed — simply confiscated the scented soap for keepsake, or they wanted to get rid of it.
The same applied to the village “Sabbath”, which was observed on different days in different areas.
Aargh, well, maybe this was simply mass village hysteria.
But, this notwithstanding, rules and regulations are considered sacrosanct in the village, and this is why rural areas have remained relatively pristine compared to predominantly perverted urban areas.
Nowhere does humanity live within the honourable and noble rules ordained by man and by God than in rural areas.
Rules and regulations, therefore, provide the energy that sustains and balances all the life forces around us.
They can easily define success or failure; luck or misfortune.
Also, observance and enforcement of rules and regulations can only be absolute; it does not selectively apply to “formal” or “informal” spheres of life.
Co-habiting with Covid-19
The world foolishly thought that the coronavirus would blow over and life would resume as it was before, but it is now 146 days — or four months and 25 days — since the disease was first identified in Wuhan, China, and it is still raging.
While reducing social intercourse by closing down social spaces, including businesses, through lockdowns has proved to be the gold standard of dealing with the pandemic, this cannot possibly be sustained interminably.
Both the economic and psychological toll can be staggering to a point where the prescribed cure would seemingly become worse than the damage wrought by the disease itself.
On this one, the Bishop strangely agrees with Mr Donald Trump: the cure cannot be worse than the disease.
So societies, not least our own, are variously adopting methods of co-habiting with the virus, at least for now, by gradually opening up social spaces and cautiously reopening businesses in order to ensure that economic activities — which are the lifeblood of communities — can resume.
This, however, can only be limited to regulated environments, where guidelines on social distancing, screening and hand sanitising can be efficiently and effectively enforced.
In our very own teapot-shaped Republic, most businesses and communities endured more than 48 days (from March 30 to May 17) on lockdown, before the restrictions were relaxed.
They have since guardedly resumed operations.
But not so for the “informal sector”.
A long winter
Well, in our context it means more than four million people are circumstantially “furloughed” and inactive.
Zimbabwe’s burgeoning “informal sector” — which captures an odd dichotomy ranging from wheeler-dealers, vendors of all sorts, pirate taxis, con artists and hustlers of every shape and hue — is ranked by some experts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the sixth largest on the continent.
Over the years, various economic experts estimate that between US$3 billion and US$7 billion is circulating in the informal economy.
So, do not believe that crap that between 80 percent and 90 percent are unemployed.
When he was launching the Poverty Income Consumption and Expenditure Survey 2011/12 on June 6 2013 as the then-Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, who still delusionally regards himself as the best local economic brains ever, told us that only 9 percent of our countrymen were not economically active.
Conversely, this meant, or means, 91 percent are economically active.
“We have always had this argument about what is the percentage of people that are employed or unemployed in Zimbabwe. Textbook economists will say 85 percent, but that is not true. If we had a population like that most people in Zimbabwe would have died. It is not possible . . .
“One is either a farmer, selling juice cards, driving an emergency taxi or you are working as a hairdresser. The fact of the matter is most people are economically active,” said Biti.
Some people unsurprisingly felt betrayed — violated even — by his observation, as this statistic had often been politically weaponised to religiously and routinely attack the Government.
What a mess!
For Bishop Lazi, there can never be an “informal sector”.
It does not exist.
Nay, it must not be allowed to exist.
There can only be small and medium-sized enterprises.
Using the term “informal sector” to describe economic activities that exist without the precepts of the law or by-laws is sanitising the insane and normalising the abnormal.
And most of this nonsense and mess is happening within the precincts of thoroughly incompetent and clueless local authorities.
Back in the day, you could not even ride your bicycle without a licence disc for it.
You also needed a hawkers licence to vend all manner of wares, including vegetables and tomatoes.
Hell, you could not even own a dog without having a licence-badge allotted to it.
Although levies for licences were nominal, they cumulatively resulted in helpful revenues for local authorities; and most importantly, they helped create a useful database that could be handy in regulating even micro economic activities.
Why can we not have our own version of “yellow taxis” as in America or “green taxis” as in Nigeria rather than tolerating “mushika-shika”, which are just a renegade version of the same?
Why can we not have properly designated and regulated market stalls for vendors than having them use decrepit bus termini as shop-windows for their wares?
This is insane!
Do not be fooled, councils have the full range of policy instruments in their toolkits to enforce this.
They range from hawkers and street vendors by-laws, cycle-licensing by-laws, and dog licensing by-laws, among many others. These by-laws, which are the building blocks of modern societies, are still extant.
Yes, man was not made for the law, but the law was made for man.
It is high time we religiously subscribe and enforce these earthly organisational and civilisational precepts.
Even the Lord in Matthew 22:17-21 counsels us: “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial taxes to Caesar or not?
“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’
“They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’
“‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
“Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’.”
However, two former City of Harare Mayors — Muchadeyi Masunda and Bernard Manyenyeni — told us that the people running some of our local authorities are either functionally illiterate or abjectly incompetent, or both. Kikikiki.
But something has got to give.
Had some of our hawkers, street vendors, pirate taxis been formally registered and regulated, chances are they could have been allowed to reopen within the regulated and prescribed guidelines like any other business.
They would also have received a helping hand from the $600 million kitty that has been set aside to insulate those that have been affected by the fallout from the coronavirus, including the resultant lockdown to fight it.
The coronavirus has again reminded us about the pitfalls and pretensions of accepting informal businesses as presently inefficiently configured.
But, the virus has given us a blank slate from which to start from and reset our factory settings.
Central Government has moved with haste to use the lockdown to reset some sectors of the economy, it is high time local authorities become nimble-footed in cleaning up the mess in their backyards.