By Sij Ncube
BULAWAYO, June 4, 2015 – THE removal of illegal vendors from the city’s central business district (CBD) is a double blow for jobless residents of the second capital long reeling from massive de-industrialisation compared to Harare.
In several consultative meetings this week ahead of the expiry of a government deadline for illegal vendors to exit the CBD by Sunday, there have been mixed views over the latest operation vendors’ representatives have code-named Operation Murambatsvina 2, in reference to the 2003 forcibly destruction of illegal structures in cities and other major towns.
But in Bulawayo the message from the long-suffering residents is clear: the Zanu (PF) administration is hell-burnt on suffocating residents thrown into the streets for the past decade or so due to massive company closures.
Plans by the government to revive the city, known during the colonial era as the Manchester of Rhodesia due to its once striving heavy textile sector, have come to naught, residents note.
They are adamant the city should not be treated in the same manner as Harare where, for instance, pavements have been completely taken-over by hawkers who peddle anything from clothes, pants, pesticides to meat.
“This same size suits all policy is wrong. Bulawayo is not as dirty as Harare. Our council is one of the best managed in Zimbabwe and you can see from the cleanliness on the pavements. Vendors are not everywhere, they are at least controlled and are not as aggressive as those in Harare,” said Faro Jele.
“The government also should bear in mind that Bulawayo suffered more company closures and job-cuts than any other city or town in Zimbabwe between 2008 and now,” added Jele, a former administrator.
A 2013 national baseline survey on perceptions, attitudes and understanding of human rights in Zimbabwe which was carried out by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and released last week revealed that Bulawayo and Manicaland were the hardest hit as far as company closures were concerned.
More than 100 firms have closed so far in Bulawayo, throwing an estimated 20 000 in the streets.
“The current economic challenges have implications on factory closures resulting in workers losing their jobs, non-payment of salaries, the calendar for payment of salaries being very unclear and unpredictable, as well as youth unemployment and massive retrenchments of the bread winners,” read part of the ZHRC report.
“The Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces were the hardest hit by factory closures, de-industrialisation and relocation of factories, and there is need to address the economic challenges in the country as well as the political polarisation which influences the access that communities have to their economic, social and cultural rights,” it adds.
But Edward Manning, the first vice president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) called on the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo to revise the decision to clear-off the country’s streets.
“As the chair for Bulawayo, we have been calling for a national policy conference but that call has not been listened to, we are therefore shocked by this ultimatum and request Chombo him to have a rethink of this ultimatum and give sound policy advise on how the informal sector can be regulated while safeguarding citizens’ social and economic rights as guaranteed by the constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Manning.
Chombo has intimated enlisting the services of law enforcement agents if vendors refused to vacate the streets starting Monday.