BY LORRAINE MUROMO
INFORMAL traders yesterday expressed anger over the extension of the level four lockdown period by two more weeks without provision of social grants to cushion them.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday further extended the COVID-19 lockdown period by a fortnight, saying the country could be hit by a fourth wave of the pandemic that is currently affecting some countries in the southern Africa region.
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) executive director Samuel Wadzai said the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown period would hit them hard.
“As Viset, we acknowledge the new lockdown extension as announced by the President, we are fully cognisant and alive to the fact that we are in perilous times regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, with health experts warning of a fourth wave,” Wadzai said.
“We, however, feel that while moves by government to rollout the vaccination programme to mobile units such as markets and auction floors are commendable, more efficiency is needed at clinics where the majority access their vaccines.
“We often hear of people that are spending most of their productive time in vaccination queues. At times they are turned back without getting the jabs. It would be tragic if the queues end up becoming COVID-19 hotspots.”
Wadzai said informal traders had since last year clamoured for social safety nets to cushion them during the COVID-19 lockdown periods, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
“Members of the informal economy are not able to operate, and the rising costs of fuel and electricity also affect them.
“The paltry provisions allocated towards alleviating hunger in economically vulnerable families were looted by undeserving and corrupt individuals, with reports of fictitious numbers and double payments as revealed by the Office of the Auditor General’s report pertaining to the facility as administered by the One Money transfer agency,” he said.
Wadzai said any reactions to COVID-19 that did not have constitutional safeguards were likely to be abused.
“We would like to appeal to the relevant line ministries to consider the establishment of a proper social security scheme for the informal economy seeing as it is that it is now the country’s number one employer. Viset designed a draft policy paper that can be readily shared as part of inputs to the process,” he said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the extension of lockdown measures meant that the clampdown on informal traders would intensify while nothing is done to financially support them.
“Poverty is likely to increase and we will miss the targets in the National Development Strategy One (NDS1) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on reducing poverty,” Moyo said.
Informal traders have constantly clashed with the police and municipal authorities who will be enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown measures.