Vendors vow to defy government

HARARE - A vendor representative union yesterday vowed informal traders would defy a decree to leave street pavements across Zimbabwe’s towns and cities until municipalities build alternative vending sites, defying an edict to forcibly remove them with the military’s help and setting up deadly potential clashes.

Local Government minister July Moyo issued the directive last Friday for vendors, who have mushroomed across Zimbabwe’s urban centres and are estimated to be around 6 million,  to leave the streets for designated sites.

He claims he spoke to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, “to seek his assistance so that security agencies can work with the municipalities”.

“You are directed to cease forthwith your activities within the next 48 hours, failure of which you have no one but yourselves to blame,” Moyo told a news conference.

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) chairperson Samuel Wadzai said the army should simply remain in the barracks where they belong as vendors were not waging a war against anyone.

“Government should sober up and allow dialogue to start. Any attempt to trivialise our struggles and efforts as vendors survive in this harsh economic environment will be met with refined and sustained resistance.

“If the uniformed forces come out, it will be a clear violation of section 24 of the Constitution which obliges government to remove restrictions that prevent people from working or engaging in gainful economic activities,” Wadzai said.

Zimbabwe’s 80 percent-plus unemployment strain has spurred an informal economy which is dominated by street vendors, and poor enforcement of municipal by-laws has seen the explosion of unregulated informal commerce in its towns and cities. Government  has failed to create jobs for the burgeoning, young population. Vendors have said they were doing what they were doing out of necessity.

National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) chairperson Sten Zvorwadza said the streets have become their industry and government should be grateful for what the vendors have done for the economy.

“We also give government a 48-hour ultimatum to create jobs. Unless President Emmerson Mnangagwa gives a directive to shoot and kill, we will not go anywhere. Every year more vendors in the form of college and university graduates are churned out because there are no jobs.

“The informal sector has the largest number of patriots who are working honestly for this country. We deserve the respect that they showed when they gave thieves three months to sort out their mess,” Zvorwadza said.

The union said they were not intimidated by  government’s attempt to militarise the issue by inviting Chiwenga.

Moyo said illegal vending of food and fruits risks fanning an outbreak of cholera.

Four people have been killed by cholera in Chegutu town, 100km west of Harare.

“The idea of blaming vendors for disease outbreaks is now boring. First, the Harare City Council should deal with its poor service delivery. They pump out dirty water every day and don’t collect garbage for more than one month and expect people not to get sick. Communicable diseases are caused by failed councils not vendors,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga), comprising 92-local authorities body, while backing the drive to bring sanity to the CBDs, proposed that municipalities enter private-public partnerships to build flea market stalls at strategic locations where vendors would not lose business.

Zilga president Killer Zivhu said the flea markets must not be located on the outskirts of the city because vendors do brisk business selling their wares on the streets and from shop fronts.

“Municipalities have no money, so they must enter public-private partnerships to build appropriate facilities in the city centre that must maintain adequate personal hygiene, including facilities to wash and dry hands hygienically, hygienic toilet facilities and changing facilities,” Zivhu said, adding many people were earning a living through vending because of high unemployment.

The City of Harare said it has developed a framework for “inner city renewal” which is aimed at de-congesting the city and bringing order and sanity in the CBD.

Michael Chideme, the Harare City Council spokesperson, said in the implementation of the first phase of the framework, the municipality has resolved to embark on an intensive exercise to bring order and sanity in the CBD and other affected areas “in light of the unprecedented levels of chaos prevailing in the city.”

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