Give credit where it is due

HARARE - High unemployment levels and tight job opportunities for school-leaving university and other tertiary institution graduates have connived to drive a majority of Zimbabweans to the street pavements in an effort to eke out a living.

It is least surprising that established formal retailers are now feeling the heat from competition by people spurred by survival instincts who crowd pavements and walkways in every major town and city as subsistence traders.

And their impact seems to have unruffled businesses who have for long enjoyed uncontested monopoly in the retail sector. The informal sector is a survival strategy for some jobless people.

The critical mass of people in the informal sector who have essentially chosen to uplift their families by their  bootstraps with little resources or government assistance prove beyond doubt that survival excites latent creativity and genius among those whose lives have been pushed hard against the wall by economic circumstances.

Yet, it is most disconcerting that central and local government have blindly colluded in constricting individual initiative through punitive measures premised on obsolete by-laws purportedly targeted at “maintaining” standards in terms of aesthetic appeal of urban surroundings — a colonial method of dampening any self-sustenance enterprise from indigenous people.

On one hand local authorities hire municipal police to prowl the streets and chase after subsistence traders away from the pavements unwittingly preventing them from generating money for paying municipal services such as rates, water and other service charges including a source of their salaries.

On the other hand, the taxman wields the axe to extract “presumptive taxes” from street hawker on the basis of unproven data that the informal sector holds $7 billion under its pillows instead of channelling it through orthodox banking facilities.

Ironically street vendors are targeted for taxation when the taxman has nominal belief that the subsistence trader makes a profit unlike established businesses who bemoan taxation levied after profits have been worked out.

While our political elite drive round in the comfort of the vehicles bought through money extracted from poor street pavement retailers and businessmen bemoan the state of the country’s economy from the safety of the golf course, street vendors are carefully trying to stitch the rotten fabric of the country economy back together.

And for their effort no one seems to give them credit.

Authorities choose to ignore the mean feats informal traders accomplished to keep the country plodding along by bringing in much-needed fuel and keep the country from grinding to a halt, bringing in groceries from neighbouring countries to sustain families when local industries could not even produce a box of matches.

Businesses need to acknowledge and give them due credit instead of assigning causes of failure to make super-profits.

 

    Comments (1)

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    ssa - 27 November 2014

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