First Street

24 09 2014

Once upon a time the First Street shopping mall was a very fashionable part of town. Youngsters would go there and parade – boys strutting, talking and laughing loudly to impress the girls. It was quite the place to shop too; the place to be to sell fashion, or shoes, or hi-fi or furniture. That was long ago.

Now it is dirty with buckled pavements and old water bottles lying around. Tops are missing of street drains and the holes must be circumnavigated with care. Luxury shopping? Not if you want cheap Chinese fake leather belts, car cellphone chargers or no name brand long toed shoes. Or any of the other bric-a-brac commonly being sold on the streets of Harare.

The local idiot stopped washing a car with a tub of filthy water from the gutter and tried  to sell me the cheap Chinese watch pinned to his trousers. I pointed out that I had a very good Swiss watch that was much better than his Chinese one. The argument only ended when the parking meter attendant agreed that Swiss watches were always better than Chinese ones.

Negotiating my way down the pavement past the vendors tables I crossed the First Street mall and smiled inwardly at the controversy that had been caused by paving it in to make it possibly Harare’s first pedestrian mall. So far as I could see the glamour shops were gone, the wares in the current outlets looking tired and lonely supplanting quality with quantity. Perhaps that was an ice cream stain near the pile of bricks in the middle, a child dropping its long dreamed of Saturday treat. Perhaps it was just spilt white paint.

The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) was on the 3rd floor of a bank building opposite where I’d parked. The offices were plush and had a lot of chrome and granite in evidence for a government office. The lady at the Min of Ag (Ministry of Agriculture) building had said that now I had to be a member of the AMA to import coir for my nursery, just about $100 for a year she’d said. It turned out to be $500 and it was not exactly clear what I’d get for it. Well, the bureaucrat I spoke to certainly was eating some pretty impressive food but she claimed it was just leftovers from the board meeting currently in full swing. Having paid the $500 to the finance division I went back to get my membership. No, I was emphatically told, I had to go back on the 1st of October as it was only valid from then. I tried to reason that I could just have an invalid membership until then met with blind unreasonableness. No, and that was it.

The local idiot was back smearing filthy water over a slightly more dirty car. Negotiating the traffic I had to do a U turn at the end of first street were it was blocked of for “traffic works”. It will take a lot more than that to restore the pedestrian mall to a shade of its former glory.




One response

28 09 2014
Lucina Faccio

I remember weekly trips for coffee and strawberry tarts in Barbour’s…..
Don’t think I’ll be dropping into town anytime soon!?
Great coffee found at Sorella’s .. 😉

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