By Sij Ncube
HARARE, 02 June, 2015 – THE Zimbabwe Informal Sector`s Organization (ZISO), a pressure group of hawkers, has labelled the impending operation to flush out vendors from the country’s cities and major towns as Murambatsvina Part Two as it emerges the government is preparing to unleash the army and police on illegal streets vendors.
Ignitious Chombo, the minister of local government, on Monday gave illegal vendors in and around the country a one-week ultimate to move off the streets or face the wrath of the state’s security agents.
Chombo was addressing the country’s mayors and councillors in Harare in which he was accompanied by senior army and police officers, including members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC).
He told the mayors and councillors that he has written to the Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi, and “henceforth you can expect the Zimbabwe Republic Police to co-operate with you (local authorities) in your efforts to confine vending to designated sites.”
In 2003 the government undertook a similar operation code-named Murambatsvina ostensibly to destroy illegal structures in cities and major towns, displacing several thousands of city and town dwellers.
But at a press conference Monday officials of the Zimbabwe Informal Sector’s Organisation charged that the Zanu(PF) administration was driven by “a deep-seated paranoia” in the wake of Chombo’s call for the ruthless removal of vendors and other informal traders from the streets.
“The ZANU PF government is well aware and afraid of the swelling numbers in the streets of Harare and other cities,” the informal sector pressure group said in a statement read at the press conference in Harare, adding that the overwhelming swell of vendors in the capital is a reflection of the government`s dismal failure to create the employment which they promised during their 2013 electoral campaign. Further, industry has continued to decline, exacerbated by the acute liquidity crunch and lack of investor confidence.
ZISO stated categorically that it is not the fault of the vendors that they found themselves in streets but because of the government`s failure to create jobs and provide other viable economic opportunities.
“ZISO believes that the government should not embark on another Murambatsvina that will result in a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions. Instead, the government must take a consultative; human rights based approach in addressing the issue of vendors in the city. An extensive all stakeholder consultation with an active role of the vendors themselves is vital if government is to find a lasting solution to the problem. Secondly, government must come up with viable alternative sources of livelihood before they destroy the vending that the people have created for themselves,” it said.
ZISO fears that brutal removals of the vendors would be met with fierce resistance from the vendors who have no other means of survival and nowhere to go.
The government must not abdicate its constitutional responsibility to create employment, revive industry, and attract investor confidence and liquidity boom, it added.
“It is unacceptable for the government to punish vendors for the failures which squarely rest on the government. It is ironic that the government seeks to rely on outdated colonial laws to remove its own people from their sources of livelihood.”
Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated at 90 percent with critics of Zanu pointing out that the country has been turned into a nation of vendors as companies continuing closing shop due to the prevailing harsh economic environment.
The vendors pressure group has called for an all-stakeholder Informal Sector Policy is urgently required to address the following issues:
1. Transparent, depoliticized, corrupt-proof and well intended government and business support to facilitate complimentarity between the informal sector, government and formal business for purposes of harmonization and co-existence
2. Regulation and legislation tailor-made to the policies that are a product of an all-stakeholders approach. This should also review outdated urban statutes some of which are inherited from the colonial government and no longer applicable to present day circumstances and objectives
3. Incentivizing formalization through relaxation of registration requirements, reduction of registration and operational costs and providing access to bank loans and other fringe benefits that come with formalization
4. The enhancement of community participation in the making of decision at all stages
5. Encourage a sense of ownership and public awareness in the process of urban management
6. Coordination between national plans and local plans under an inclusive stakeholder approach including civil society and vendor`s representatives, including integration of urban and economic planning.
7. Appropriate tax regime to produce a win-win situation between the vendors and government-however vendors insist that they can only afford one dollar a day
8. Wide and extensive consultations on the establishment of designated cites with the active participation of the vendors themselves with a particular focus on identifying strategic areas in terms of viable and sustainable markets
9. Creation of the micro-financing strategy to provide access to credit, markets and complete value chains for the vendors and other informal traders
10. Encouraging the vendors to maintain minimum health standards and ensure cleanliness of the areas where they operate