Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) joins the entire global community to commemorate International Workers Day. BVTA today stands in solidarity with thousands of unemployed Zimbabweans who have resorted to vending and trading as the only source of livelihood under the country’s prevailing difficult economic environment.
BVTA implores the government to put the interests of informal workers first and adopt practical steps towards creating conducive conditions for the informal sector to thrive in line with provisions on Economic and Social Rights in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
We are still aggrieved that the informal sector is besieged with many challenges i.e. lack of clear government policies on social security, lack of medical health care schemes but it is the biggest employer with over 5 million Zimbabweans.
We are deeply concerned that at local level informal workers are facing a glaring criminalization of their sector, municipal law enforcement agents are unleashed to conduct violent raids that have maimed vendors and left trails of destruction. Vendors’ goods continue to be confiscated and disappear on their way to storage facilities.
BVTA is shocked by the selective application of the law where vendors are brutally raided and while street money changers in street corners are left untouched. We call upon the local authority to treat all citizens in an equal manner and respect their equal rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
BVTA demands clarity on the meaning of the formalization of the informal sector when informal workers are made to go through a rigorous police vetting process and completion of registration forms in application for vending licenses at municipal offices but some sectors of the society still argue vendors are not formalized.
We hope this years’ Workers Day commemoration will provide an opportunity for the government to pause and reflect on the informal sector and provide decent working conditions for informal workers in order to achieve an inclusive economy.
On 27 September 2016 was a special day for us and Wild Trust Zimbabwe to face off with the City of Bulawayo and find mutual beneficial ways to address challenges faced by vendors and informal traders especially women and girls at Presbytarian City Church.
The meeting came at a time when sour relations were escalating between City of Bulawayo and vendors due to their violent raids that have been recorded in the past few weeks resulting in some vendors sustaining serious injuries. Vendors and informal traders especially women face harassment on a daily basis. We believe that this kind of dialogue will help curtail cases of human rights violations recorded in the sector daily. Partners such Nango Western Region, NAVUZ, Uhlelo LweZakhamizi (BPRA), SWITA and ZCIEA supported us.
Mr Elliot Panesu from BCC engineering department responding to questions and also speaking on behalf of other four BCC officials present pledged the City of Bulawayo preparedness to always engage with vendors if there are grievances.
(1) BCC pledged to investigate cases of abuse women and girls especially at Egodini Terminus where they are deprived of water by unscrupulous men who are now selling water from a public tap.
(2) BCC pledged to partner with Bulawayo Vendors Trust and Wild Trust Zimbabwe and conduct joint outreach meetings on City of Bulawayo Bylaws
(3) BCC committed desire to allocate more vending bays to vendors associations.
(4) BCC pledged to conduct periodic meetings with vendors associations.
(5) Address cleanliness in public toilets to address special needs of women and girls.
(6) BCC also committed to attend to individual grievances arising from vendors who felt their issues have not been dealt with adequately by some City of Bulawayo officials.
We pay our gratitude to Wild Trust Zimbabwe for choosing to collaborate with us in this important meeting.
Did you know that 17% of cases of human rights violations recorded in the first quarter of 2016 were against vendors?
Did you know that women and girls vendors buy water from unscrupulous individuals to wash hands after using toilets at Egodini vending area?
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.