Tendai Mugabe and Tafadzwa Ndlovu
The deadline by which illegal vendors were expected to leave Central Business Districts of towns and cities to designated selling points expired yesterday with no sign that the traders were willing to comply, mainly in Harare.
This comes as Harare City Council struggled to register vendors at the new selling points yesterday because most of them were reluctant to do so.
As of yesterday, council had registered only 500 vendors out of an estimated 20 000, indicating that the majority of them wanted to remain in the CBD.
A survey by The Herald in Harare yesterday showed that the matter had been hijacked by political opportunists who were dreaming of fomenting anarchy by inciting vendors to ignore the Government directive.
However, some vendor associations yesterday said they were willing to move to the designated selling points while others were adamant that they would only move after Government offers alternative employment and proper vending facilities.
This is despite a collective assurance made by vendor associations to Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni this week that they would comply.
Those resisting the directive argued that they were not on the streets by choice, but it was a survival strategy forced on them by the prevailing economic environment.
However, Minister Nyoni said she met with 16 vendor unions who assured her that they were willing to move to designated points.
“They told me that they were going to help their members to move out except for one or two unions who are now politicising the issue. But as for the other unions, I think there is willingness to comply.”
Minister Nyoni said the onus was now on the vendors unions’ leadership to ensure that their members moved to designated points.
Vendor Unions expressed varying views over the directive.
Grassroots Empowerment Fleamarkets and Vendors Trust chairman Mr Alexio Mudzengerere said: “Our people started to move to designated sites today (yesterday). We are happy to bring sanity and orderliness in the CBD and we are complying with the Government directive.”
He said those resisting relocation had sinister motives and were hiring people from high-density suburbs to masquerade as vendors in the CBD.
Zimbabwe Home Industries Association president Mr Onismo Gore said they had complied with the Government directive.
“We are complying and our members are already moving to points designated to them by the council,” he said.
However, some unions were singing a different tune saying logistical issues involved in their relocation required a year to complete.
They accused council of registering vendors on a partisan basis, adding that Government should first create decent vending zones and come up with a taxing regime beneficial to the State and vendors as well.
National director of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe Mr Samuel Wadzai said: “We feel that there are certain processes that should be dealt with before the relocation like the issue of registration should be inclusive.”
“There are cash barons who are currently collecting money from vendors and we feel that should be addressed first. I think we need a year to put proper structures and address all the concerns that we have before the relocation is effected.”
He said they were not expecting running battles with the police because the High Court said there was no need for the involvement of security apparatus in the issue vendors.
Director of the Zimbabwe Informal Sector’s Organisation Mr Promise Mkwananzi, called for a meeting with Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo to work on a complete framework that addressed the issue of vendors and their plight.
“Ziso and other vendors associations are keen to meet and dialogue with your ministry about the issues on the table and to assist your ministry to devise an amicable and sustainable solution to the issue of vendors in the shortest (but reasonable) possible time,” reads part of the letter written by Mr Mkwananzi to Minister Chombo.
He said the use of force against vendors would further alienate the country from the international community and the much needed foreign direct investment.
Some of the vendors who spoke to the Herald yesterday said they were staying put.
Mr Tongai Mbayo said: “Move and go where? There is no market out there, I cannot leave my customers here in the CBD and go where there is no one hence I am not moving.”
Mrs Portia Nyamayevhu said she was not going to move because there was no proper infrastructure outside the CBD.
“Why should we go to places where there are no toilets and access to clean and safe water? Our lives are here in the streets and we are not moving as yet,” she said.
In a statement yesterday, City of Harare principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme said: “By 1400hrs (yesterday) today we had registered 500 vendors at all our centres.
“By close of business we still had long queues at the major centres.
The exercise continues throughout the weekend and into next week… All members of the informal sector should be warned that there is no going back on the relocation. Very soon our enforcement teams would be deployed to ensure total compliance.”