Rights of vendors and informal traders must be promoted

By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni and Cherish Mbulawa-Intern

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA)  has noted that the rights of vendors and informal traders are frequently violated by municipal police in city of Bulawayo and hence their rights must protected and promoted.
Vending has become a source of livelihood for many people due to economic challenges bedevilling the country, efforts must made to have a there multi stakeholder to promote their rights. We have also observed that a proportionate number of vendors are not aware of their rights nor the means to seek recourse when their rights are violated. The existence of this knowledge gap has resulted in their rights being infringed. In addition lack of clearly defined policies results in the abuse of vendors’ rights. We then call for measures that will empower vendors to speak up for their rights.
The constitution of Zimbabwe in Chapter (4) Section (56) Subsection (1) states that all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Fulfilling Chapter (2) Section (14) Subsection (1) which states that institutions, and agencies at every level must endeavour to facilitate and take measures to empower through appropriate and affirmative action all marginalised persons, groups and communities.
As part of our small contribution to sensitize vendors about their rights, we have embarked on training of vendors on social and economic rights and on how they can demand and promote their rights.
We believe and strive to empower vendors as an identified marginalised group. Vendors have the same rights that are accorded to all Zimbabweans stated in Chapter (4) Section (56) Subsection (2) which include right to equal treatment, right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

Empirical evidence shows the astronomical   growth of the informal sector in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo in particular. The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT 2014) says 84% of Zimbabweans are employed in the informal sector. Estimates are that over 300,000 people in Bulawayo are in the informal economy with the majority struggling to access licences and suitable trading places.

Conversely,  in the absence of clear policy guidelines for local authorities from government, councils like Bulawayo City Council as service provides for the sector have not moved with speed to address licencing and public trading space challenges.  This has resulted in a difficult working environment for vendors and informal traders, the majority of whom are women and youths. Vendors are subjected to arbitrary removals from their trading places and have their goods confiscated by corrupt police officers and council officials.

We are a membership based organisation of vendors and informal traders that exists to expand economic opportunities for the urban poor in Bulawayo. Our  work includes conscientising our members about socio-economic rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, identifying existing policy and legal constraints facing informal traders and engaging in policy advocacy.