Give vendors space in 2014: Nemaire

Two new business bodies, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy (ZCIEA) and the Alternative Business Alliance (ABA), have urged the government to accept the reality of the informal sector as a vital buffer against rising unemployment.

Melody Nemaire
Melody Nemaire

Between 85 and 90 per cent of Zimbabwean workers are not formally employed and depend on the informal sector because of the shrinking economy.

The secretary for ABA, Melody Nemaire, told The Zimbabwean that government should allow vendors to take over streets after hours, or designate specific trading centres for them.

“Vendors are asking government to follow global trends that allow vendors to earn a living without undue harassment from police and other law enforcement agents,” Nemaire said.

This approach would make it possible for vendors to grow their businesses to a point where they could contribute to the country’s revenue base. She pointed to South Africa and Zambia as examples of where vendors could afford to provide essentials for their families in a hassle-free environment.

Nemaire said it was time vendors took over the streets in an orderly manner in agreement with responsible authorities. She said the welfare of the majority of people was complicated by the limited post-independence economic policy choices made by government, such as the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme implemented at the behest of the IMF and World Bank.

“Street vending is governed by colonial rules which discriminated against the poor blacks. Today people’s lives mainly depend on street vending and the hawker’s licence is not an empowering option. The formal economy cannot absorb the swelling ranks of the unemployed and it is time government saw sense and realised that vending is big business in major metropolitan cities around the globe,” Nemaire said.

She said given the course the Zimbabwe economy was taking, the informal sector would determine the future and disputed accusations made by local authorities that vending contributed towards the accumulation of filth.

She blamed the state for its failure to guarantee access to safe water and waste disposal facilities. “Our products are sourced from healthy environments but are disposed of in unhygienic conditions because the state has failed to provide the necessary services,” said Nemaire. “The public health scare argument is just cheap propaganda.”

Israel Mabhoo, an official with ABA, suggested that vendors be allowed to take over streets after shops had closed for the day. He said vendors’ associations would monitor and ensure that streets were cleaned by the vendors before they leave.

The president of the Harare chapter of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association, Stanlake Nyakudya, blamed intolerance and corrupt practices in high places for the plight of informal workers.

Efforts by his organisation to secure designated places for members of the informal sector to operate from continued to hit a brick wall after all the spaces were grabbed by senior officials for their friends, relatives and tenants, he said.

“Only a few well-connected people benefited from places designated for the informal sector activities as partisan politics were at play, especially those considered to be strategically located,” said Nyakudya, adding that even foreigners were allocated these lucrative vending places.

He accused government of destroying the informal sector in the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina without providing a viable option for affected people, and said his organisation would continue to talk to municipal and government officials until the demands of the informal sector were met.

The deputy national youth chair with ZCIEA, Chipo Musonza, said unless the state acknowledged the presence of the informal sector, the future of the majority of Zimbabweans would be doomed. “My organisation will continue pushing for recognition of the informal sector until government gives in,” said Musonza, a cross border trader.

Harare territory youth chair with ZCIEA, Mandla Simba-Ngwenya, said local authorities should adopt an inclusive approach as a way of engaging the informal sector regarding policy formulation. “If you deny people access to food and other means of survival, you will be perpetrating one of the worst forms of human rights violation,” he said.

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