Annus machingae as street hawking takes over every available space in the city

Lusuga Kironde

ANYBODY moving about the streets of Dar es Salaam will no doubt get astounded at the way street trading has taken over much of the free and not so free space of the city.

This is captured in a feature article titled; “What happens when street hawking is all over the place?” The writer believes that December 6, 2016 will be put in the annals of Tanzania, because that was the day that street hawkers or machingas were exonerated from harassment by public authorities. Yes.

Indeed 2016 could be called “annus machingae” (I want to mean “Year of the Machingas”). You may have heard of “annus mirabilis” and “annus horibilis”. We are interested in the former. “Annus mirabilis” is a Latin phrase that means “wonderful year”, “miraculous year” or “amazing year”.

This term was originally used to refer to the year 1666, and today is used to refer to several years during which events of major importance are remembered. Prior to this, however, Thomas Dekker used the phrase “mirabilis annus” in his 1603 pamphlet “The Wonderful Year”, “Wherein is shewed the picture of London lying sick of the plague.” The term “annus mirabilis” (plural “anni mirabiles”) is used to mean: “Year of Wonders, Wonderful Year”.

It is a wonderful year for Tanzania street hawkers popularly known as machingas. Many of them say they had never realised that the country was independent or that they were appreciated members of society until December 2016 when they believe they were given a free reign to do what they want and where they want.

They are utilising the opportunity to the maximum. The writer of the article “What happens when street hawking is all over the place?” believes machingas were getting a raw deal from local authorities and that the central government was having it right to allow them to operate anywhere, and not get relocated arbitrarily, because, among other reasons: “the issue of street hawkers is politically highly motivated”.

The writer goes on to argue; “In due course, opposition parties would also want to see to it that relocation of the hawkers ‘wrecks as much havoc as possible’ which in turn would discredit the Ruling Party and its government.

The President has smelled this danger and has acted at the right time before he is taken advantage of.” “Wreck as much havoc as possible?” No. We have pointed out before that there is a difference in use between “wreck” and “wreak”. So, we say: “to wreak havoc” (not “to wreck havoc’).

“To wreak havoc” means “to cause very great harm or damage”. May be the writer should have opted for saying: “.... opposition parties would also want to see to it that relocation of the hawkers ‘causes as much damage as possible’ which in turn would discredit the Ruling Party and its government ......”

Apparently though, according to the writer, machingas may be wreaking havoc to those carrying out their business in shops and registered places: “….. allowing the hawkers to sell their products outside other people’s business is not acceptable.

Shop owners pay for businesses and taxes. Similarly when all the passages are blocked by ‘hawkers inconveniences’ other people”. This last sentence does not seem to make sense. My version is as follows: “Similarly blocking all passages by hawkers inconveniences other people”.

As we come to the close of this year, which must surely be annus mirabilis for machingas, public authorities are scratching their heads over what to do with street traders. Relocating them has not succeeded. Building huge market complexes such as the Machinga Complex in Dar es Salaam have proved a failure.

The issue of street traders is not just about location, but also about the type of goods sold, the rights of the consumers, the rights of other traders to conduct their businesses, government revenue, overall city management, creating future entrepreneurs and so on. Perhaps a starting point would be for public authorities to think of creating a package which street traders will see as being in their interests in both the short and long terms.

If this is in place, we may see voluntary compliance with city land use regulations, instead of the current militaristic stances. We wish you Merry Christmas.

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