'Removal of vendors violates rights'

HARARE - Recent clashes between law enforcement authorities and vendors in Harare were brutal, unacceptable and in violation of human and worker rights, an international body representing vendors has said.

StreetNet International which has more than 600 000 members from 49 countries across the world said the clashes between enforcement authorities and vendors was brutal, unacceptable and in violation of human and worker rights.

The organisation’s international coordinator Pat Horn said the world would be watching how government violates International Labour Organisation conventions and recommendations on vendors.

“StreetNet considers such actions towards our sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe, brutal, unacceptable and in violation of their human and worker rights.

“In an economy where only 15,5 percent of all working people in Zimbabwe are paid employees with permanent contracts, forcing a large proportion of workers in the labour force to work in the informal economy, proper dialogue and solution-based approach, rather than forced removals which victimise informal workers, would be more appropriate.

“These workers have a right to earn a living for themselves and their families,” Horn said.                      

The StreetNet international coordinator said government should adopt more inclusive ways of dealing with vendors such as negotiations and not use brute force.

Horn said both central and local government should not renege from the ILO Recommendation 204, which Zimbabwe adopted.

“We stand in full solidarity with all street vendors and informal traders of Zimbabwe, and call for an end to Operation Restore Order — an attack on the livelihoods of the working poor which the world is watching,” Horn said.

Meanwhile, MDC Bulawayo senator Eddie Cross told the Daily News on Sunday that while the idea of removing vendors is counter-productive, the clear political motive is still to be revealed.

At a youth meeting a fortnight ago, Mugabe said all vendors in Harare’s Central Business District should be removed immediately as they had become an eyesore.

After Mugabe’s announcement several other local authorities across the country have taken the initiative to also remove vendors from their streets.

“There are millions of street vendors. The informal sector is much larger than the formal sector and millions of people depend on these small business ventures for everything. It seems to me the only motive is to placate the president who wants to ‘clean’ the city.

“The only desire is to see the country’s cities return to the past when vending was not significant — however, since then the economy has collapsed and unemployment has meant that everyone has to get into the informal economy if they are to survive.

“The blitz against vendors will not succeed…the only difference now is that they are angry,” Cross said.

He strongly believes that all vendors should be registered to operate within the confines of the law while being encouraged to develop and eventually join the formal sector.

Residents Forum coordinator Denford Ngadziore said while the directive to remove vendors came from Mugabe it is now beyond them, as central and local government does not have the capacity to enforce.

“This removal could trigger violence as there will be a battle between hungry Zimbabweans who have been on the streets for more than a decade. Government and local authorities do not have the resources to remove these people on a daily basis,” he said.

Gweru Residents Forum director Charles Mazorodze said the problem of vendors is not the peoples’ creation but of government.

He said vendors are the result of poor macro-economic policies that central government should fix and not local authorities.

Mazorodze added that Gweru’s city fathers have been ignoring the concerns raised by the vendors which are very genuine.

“The site they are pushing the vendors does not have any stalls, water or toilets. If that is mixed with days of uncollected refuse, Gweru could be the new breeding ground of diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

“Gweru should take a leaf from Bulawayo and close of one street in the city where vendors can trade freely and council can also collect their levies. That way both parties win,” Mazorodze said.

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