Vendors exploit the disabled

Hilary Gomo (not his real name) spends his days in a wheelchair selling pirated music in the city centre. His ‘boss’ is in his office on the other side of the road, burning the CDs for re-sale.

Gomo’s wages amount to a plate of sadza and a dollar for transport every day and, unfortunately, his story is a common one on the streets of Harare.

Vendors employ people with disabilities in order to avoid hide and seek games with the local police who the vendors believe are unlikely to chase less able-bodied sellers.

A vendor identified as Takura said that the council had declared ‘war’ on informal sellers. “We are at war. We are trying to live a decent life and the police are always on our tails. But, ever since I employed my disabled relative, my fortunes have changed for the better. Police officers are human, they cannot harass disabled people,” he said.

Takura dismissed claims that disabled sellers were underpaid. “My relationship with my disabled relative is mutual; we need each other for survival. Sometimes I am the cow and he is the tick, on other occasions the reverse is true,” he said.

Though many vendors allegations that they were underpaying their disabled employees, many workers said they were not receiving a decent wage. “We did not know that it was a ploy to evade the police,” said one disabled seller.

“When my employer approached me, he was so compassionate and sympathetic. He even said my life was now going to change for the better. He promised to buy me groceries, but none of that has happened.”

Harare city spokesperson, Lesley Gwindi, is on record saying there were no council bylaws which gave preferential treatment to disabled vendors, but that the municipality police were careful when dealing with less able-bodied members of society.

Social analysts and human rights activists have castigated the government for failing to cater for its disabled citizens.

“When the government fails to take care of the less privileged members of society, they are prone to abuse from the community,” said Adeline Makaro, a human right activist with a local Non Governmental Organisation.

“The government should have projects to help the disabled. Disability does not mean inability; the disabled might have magnificent business proposals, but society looks down upon them.”

Post published in: News

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