By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, August 25, 2016 – DUE to the country’s protracted economic crisis, the city of Bulawayo has, in recent years, lost its industrial hub status to become a teeming vending district.
However, despite keeping the proverbial wolf from the door for much of the time, street vendors are still confronted by their own challenges, not least among them lack of ablution facilities, lack of proper vending structures and no law to govern their operations.
Female vendors particularly, feel the heat when it comes to the use of ablution facilities.
RadioVOP this week caught up with Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association programs coordinator, Michael Ndiweni, who spoke about their challenges and the new measures they have placed to ameliorate them.
“There are no toilets; As such, women going through menstruation cycles find it difficult to survive. Some would want to change their pads but cannot because of lack supporting facilities,” Ndiweni said.
He also said there are no policies protecting vendors.
On top of their troubles, Ndiweni said, income obtained through the trade is ever dwindling as individual vendors always face competition from the ever ballooning number of vendors trying to make a living.
Because of this, he added, their source of “employment” shall ever remain insecure.
“Their incomes are often minimal and their sales fluctuate,” he said.
It is crucial for policymakers to acknowledge and address these challenges, Ndiweni said.
He said as an organisation championing the rights of vendors, they have launched a self-funded training programme to sensitise members on their constitutional rights and guard against abuse by municipal police.
He said the training was in response to the continued confiscation of their wares coupled with the inhumane treatment they received from municipal police officers.
Recently, four municipal police were left hospitalised after they were assaulted by angry vendors, who were protesting against the confiscation of their goods.
Ndiweni said vendors have constitutional rights, which must be respected, hence, the training exercise to sensitise them on their rights.
“Our organisation has noted that the rights of vendors and informal traders are frequently violated by municipal police in city of Bulawayo and, hence, their rights must be protected and promoted,” he said.
He said they have also observed that a proportionate number of vendors were not aware of their rights or the means to seek recourse when their rights were violated.
“We then call for measures that will empower vendors to speak up for their rights,” he said.
Ndiweni said they were seeking to reach all vendors doted around Bulawayo’s 29 municipal wards.
By supporting street vendors, Ndiweni said cities could foster equitable development and improve the livelihood of society’s most vulnerable populations.