No takers for council vending stalls

HARARE - Apart from sweating trainee security guards, the supposed to be vending market close to the Coke Corner along Seke road is empty as market stalls there remain unoccupied.

Instead, the streets of Harare are still clogged with vendors — who block pavements as they desperately try to eke out a living under punishing economic conditions.

So many are the vendors that some of them descend on the streets at nightfall and start selling their wares, something that has prompted authorities to mull night raids.

Amid fears of a social implosion, panicky officials last year violently moved vendors from city centres around the country but they have since returned.

Last year, Harare City Council (HCC) set aside designated vending sites at Tsiga in Mbare, Coventry Road holding bay, City Sports Centre open space and Seke Road open space- — however,they all remain deserted.

In fact — traders have, since the failed relocations, increased trading items with beds, mattresses and cooked food among some of the stuff vendors sell after-hours in the Central Business District.

Sekai Sithole, a vendor who trades in fruits and vegetables said the designated sites created by council were too far from their target market.

Sithole said Coventry Road and City Sports Centre were too hidden to allow customers to go and buy fruits, while the Seke Road site was not conducive for business.

“Chero ukaenda kunopawona hapashandike pasite pacho. Havana chavakambovaka. Hapana kana toilet zvayo and isu tine vana vadiki zvinonetsa (Even if you visit the site, there is nothing, there are no toilets and with children how can we survive there),” she said.

The Seke Road site which stands to be the largest is an open space that has no sheds to shelter the traders when they are conducting their business.

Because council has never used the site, the steel poles meant to hold sheds are now falling apart.

To add to the lack of on-site infrastructure, council has not provided any toilets or water at the sites — a provision that is mandatory in such circumstances

HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme said as more vendors flood the city, council has also beefed up its policing division.

Chideme said the municipality will continue confiscating goods of those vendors who are found trading illegally in the city centre.

“Our trucks are moving around taking those goods in a bid to force people to go to those designated sites. The idea is to decentralise services including vending so that traders can go to where the people stay,” Chideme said.

But National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) chairperson Sten Zvorwadza told the Daily News that the designated sites were not fit for purpose.

Zvorwadza said council has not even provided basic requirements like toilets or water at the sites — services that are required for such places.

He added that the State continues to use archaic legal provisions which vendors will most certainly disregard.

“In 1980, the Rhodesian government provided vending sites for traders but now council has only managed to provide 1 180 sites against a demand of more than 100 000 vendors. Council simply has no capacity to provide  these facilities hence the traders return to the city centre.”

Zvorwadza further argued that despite the Constitution and the Zanu PF-sponsored economic blueprint ZimAsset carrying provisions for the protection of vendors, police still harass them.

“What all this simply means is that government has failed.

“The wares they confiscate are taken to bankroll Zanu PF’s rallies through donations from stolen goods.

“We have also established that the money they collect from vendors is bankrolling them and not going to council coffers so that it is channelled towards constructing more market stalls for vendors,” Zvorwadza claimed

On the other hand, Promise Mkwananzi, chairperson of Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation said the influx of vendors back into the CBD is an indication that government has failed.

He said now vendors are vindicated as they have clearly shown that they are not to be blame for the problems that are being attributed to them.

“The so-called designated sites created by the HCC were neither conducive nor strategic for the vendors’ target market.

“Apart from that, some of the fees being demanded from vendors were too exorbitant for traders that have a capital of between $5 and $10.

“We are trying to educate the vendors about their rights as well as municipal by-laws so that they are well informed.

“However, the major hurdle that we face is that the municipal police confiscate vendors’ wares for resale or for personal use,” he said.

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