via Navuz speaks on bribes, political affiliation – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 5, 2015
The eviction of vendors from the streets of Harare has created a platform for corrupt municipal police and other officials to demand bribes from informal traders who have no option, but to pay in order to be allowed to sell their wares.
NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) met with National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) secretary Justice Manayi (JM) to discuss this and several other issues. The following are excerpts of the interview.
ND: Can you describe the current situation of vendors after their eviction from the streets of Harare?
JM: Vendors are still a marginalised group, but we believe government and local authorities should work with us instead of becoming an obstacle to our work.
Currently, vendors have not completely gone out of the streets and they continue to play hide-and-seek games with municipal police officers.
We have gone back to the era where municipal officers are benefiting from the situation.
ND: So, are you alluding to issues of corruption by municipal police?
JM: Yes, they are demanding bribes from those vendors who want to be protected and have continued to sell from the streets.
Some of those vendors want to protect their wares which might be worth about $100 and they are prepared to pay a bribe of $5 to a municipal officer to avoid harassment.
ND: Have the corrupt activities been reported to authorities?
JM: Obviously the vendor cannot report that corruption because they are afraid of losing out on business. Even council administration knows about it and they also want to benefit from the bribes.
ND: Are any of the Navuz members affiliated to a political party because there have been allegations that your resistance to removal of vendors from the streets is being fuelled by certain opposition political parties?
JM: No, we are not political. Navuz is a vendors’ initiative whose origins can be traced to the streets of Harare.
What joined us was the issue of vending and not political ideology. It was the need for survival and sustainability of our livelihoods.
Our members come from diverse political, religious, ethnic and educational backgrounds and we are never influenced by ideas of any political party.
ND: Were the arrests of some of your members due to political issues or refusal to comply with a government directive to move off the streets?
JM: Our members were arrested because the authorities believed we were acting against the law. We believe being an organised vendors’ union is the first step out of poverty.
If we were properly regularised, the authorities would respect our initiative and give us space to engage with us. It is not politics, but socio-economic issues at play here.
Government should give us an alternative of earning our livelihoods because if they do not, it will be tantamount to killing us.
As vendors, we are prepared to die while protecting our livelihoods. Those that were arrested were 16 of our members including the board chairman Sten Zvorwadza, national director Samuel Wadzai and office administrator Lucy Makundi. They are currently out on bail.
ND: So, what will happen come 2018 elections if government does not give vendors better alternatives and infrastructure for vending?
JM: If government and local authorities continue on this warpath, they will be creating great resistance from citizens. If they use a heavy hand on citizens, then we will hit back come elections.
ND: What do you say of the new vending sites where vendors are being relocated to?
JM: There were about 13 or 14 sites which council said they had identified in the central business district, and these included Fourth Street, Copacabana, Market Square, Coventry and corner Cripps and Seke Roads.
I have been a vendor for more than 10 years and I can tell you that making vendors move out of the streets is impossible.
The new vending sites can only take up to 100 vendors each and if there are more people, there will be overcrowding.
In the streets vendors are making profits. There is no proper infrastructure or ablution facilities at those sites and they cannot accommodate thousands of vendors.
ND: What is your opinion on taxation of vendors?
JM: We are responsible citizens and we will agree to that as long as government accommodates us.
ND: Any comment on the ban of the sale of second-hand clothes?
JM: The majority of our business as vendors emanates from sale of second-hand clothes. If they ban their sale, they would have killed us all.
I agree there are some second-hand clothes like used underwear which should be banned, but the sale of second-hand clothes and shoes should not be banned.
ND: Do you see many people turning to vending after massive losses of jobs?
JM: All I can say is that this government is sending us to the streets, while at the same time they are also removing us out of the streets.
ND: What legislative changes or improvements would you like to see on vending issues?
JM: As Navuz, we already have a draft Street Vendors Bill. Our legal department is finalising it and are currently lobbying certain MPs to move a private member’s Bill.
We hope it will be presented before Parliament soon. If passed, there will be the establishment of vendors’ committees comprising councillors, MPs, representatives of vendors, environment scans to ensure the city is clean and issues of regularising vending to contribute to economic growth.