via Govt must accept vending and make proper laws – The Zimbabwean 16 July 2015 by Esther Nyambi
The economic crisis and the high unemployment rate in Zimbabwe has literally reduced the once robust country to a glorified flea market. Just about everyone is trying to sell something – from unemployed youths to graduates and even the employed have joined the upsurge of vendors.
The National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (NVUZ) board chairman, Sten Zvorwadza, has revealed that there are more than one million vendors in Zimbabwe with over 100 000 operating in Harare. Of these 20 000 operate on the pavements in the CBD. The once acclaimed ‘Sunshine City’ has been relegated to a ‘cardboard box city’, with vendors setting up their cardboard box stalls right on the pavements.
The vending situation is widespread, with shoppers complaining that in cities such as Gweru one cannot get into a shop without jumping over a vendor selling tomatoes, toys, airtime, stolen books – just about anything really – so that the vendor can put food on the table. Political opposition parties, who are in support of the vendor organisations, say the invasion of the CBD by traders is justifiable as it is the only means for desperate people to try and earn an honest living.
The issue of vendors today is a matter of survival. The African Development Bank states that an estimated two-thirds of Zimbabweans are in informal trade as a result of the economic meltdown. As if this were not enough, the numerous universities and colleges churn out more than 10 000 graduates a year, who also resort to street vending -which naturally is a noble alternative for survival rather than them being involved in anti-social, criminal or parasitic living.
As the government clearly fails to control the soaring number of vendors in city centres it is also failing to create the two million jobs that they promised during the run up to last year’s elections. This comes not as a surprise as the government is struggling to raise the required $20 billion to finance its economic blueprint Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).
Out of control
Street vending is rampant in other African countries too. In assessing street vending in Malawi, the Coordinator of the Society for Social Advancement, Literacy and Development, Mike Chisasula, argues that “Street vending contributes to job creation, income generation and distribution, and conveniently provides goods and services.”
Compared to her neighbours though, the situation in Zimbabwe is spiralling out of control, compounded by increasing poverty and a government that offers no solution to the crisis. The latest FinScope consumer survey, conducted by the South African-based FinMark Trust last month confirmed that poverty is worsening in Zimbabwe. Statistics show that 44% of the population now resort to skipping a meal every day as they are unable to afford to buy enough food – compared to 29% in 2011.
The prevailing situation in Harare as argued by economic expert Takura Mugaga, indicates ineffectiveness, disorganisation and mismanagement on the part of the Harare City Council. As reiterated by Zvorwadza, vending should be accepted by the government as contributing to the economy as it is an unavoidable reality. He is advocating for policymakers to enact regulations that are favourable for vending activities.
For starters vendors ought to be given a platform where they operate without any inhibitions. Secondly, providing infrastructure for vendors to operate in would make it easier for them to be taxed. A suggested fee of $5 per month would be affordable even for those vendors who do not make much at the end of the month.
By working with the vendor organisations that hold a database of vendors it would be possible for the government and local authorities to collect vending taxes.
Dr Ignasio Jimu, a Malawian University geography lecturer, is of the opinion that the best way to handle street vending is to enact proper controls and regulations that will not only ensure vendors get economic freedom but afford them an opportunity to succeed.
Sadly, the Zanu (PF) government is clueless and is failing to respond to the needs of the citizens who are faced with severe economic challenges. While the government continues apportioning blameto the West and illegal sanctions, industries in Zimbabwe are currently operating far below capacity as a result of the severe liquidity crunch and companies continue to slide into judicial management or liquidation – throwing thousands of employees out of work and driving the rate of unemployment closer to 90 percent. – Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org