Zimbabwean govt plan to evict vendors from streets sparks anger



Leticia Sibanda, 20, a vendor in, Harare, looks into the sky, with her eyes showing signs of desolation following a government directive for merchants to vacate the streets they have been occupying since 2013.

Street vending has become a source of livelihood for Sibanda and millions of others in a country whose unemployment rate is estimated at 80 percent although official government statistics are conservative.

At least two million people are vending in the streets, among them are even university graduates who can’t find a job in the failing economy.

Sibanda says her husband Give More, 27, is an unemployed university graduate with a bachelor of arts degree, and has also turned into vending.

Last week, the government issued a seven-day ultimatum to the informal traders to leave urban streets or face the law.

The move follows the unprecedented disorder caused by vendors in Harare’s central business districts selling goods such as fruits, second-hand clothes, African herbs and meat.

Samuel Wadzai, director for the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) told the media that vendors would not bow down to the government directive.

Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi has ruled out the involvement of army in the removal of the vendors.

He said it was the responsibility of ministries of local government and small and medium enterprises to move them to properly designated sites.

“As NAVUZ, our position remains clear and we will communicate the same to our members.

“They will never be removed from their current vending sites unless alternative and equally profitable vending sites are provided for them.

“It will be declaring war on livelihood if army is involved in the eviction,” Wadzai said.

“The announcement by the government to let us leave the streets is very disturbing because selling these tomatoes here in the city centre had become a lucrative business for me.

“I was getting a profit of at least 10 U.S. dollars per day unlike in the so called designated areas where no one comes to buy the tomatoes,” said Sibanda.

Tichaona Maziofa, a vendor along the populous Robert Mugabe Road, said he was ready to take the authorities head on.

“I am not afraid of the threats. We will show them that we are human beings like them and fight,” Maziofa said
He said that, instead of chasing them away government should concentrate on creating employment for them.

Another vendor Everjoice Chokuda said she was prepared to relocate to designated vending sites in the periphery of the Central Business District but complained that she would not get many customers.

“Business is here in the city center. We are coming to customers rather than them coming to us. We make more money here,” she said.

Harare City Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme, said the council expected the traders to vacate the capital city’s streets as ordered.

“We are not saying no one should vend but they should do so at designated places. What they are doing is against our city by-laws and we cannot watch while people break the law,” he said.

The chaotic situation brought by uncontrolled vending does not give a good picture of Harare to tourists, he added.
However, social commentator, Mr Cleopas Neuso differed with Chideme.

“I think it is immoral for the government to chase those vendors. Where do they go? The few options available are not enough and it will be unfair to take such drastic action,” Neuso said.

Reports say during the 2013 election campaign, President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party promised to create 2.5 million jobs if it won elections.

However, since 2013, the economy has been on a downward trend with many firms either closing down or retrenching.

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