The struggle for rights of vendors continues in Bulawayo

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?

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BVTA inspires 197 vendors with leadership skills in Bulawayo

By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) has successfully executed Leadership and Advocacy Trainings in Bulawayo’ 29 wards targeting its Wards Committee structures, poised to inspire vendors and informal traders to have better lives.

The objects of the trainings were to enhance the leadership and public policy advocacy capabilities of its ward structures. One hundred and ninety seven (197) members of the Ward Structures were trained. BVTA carried out trainings after noting that most those occupying positions lacked adequate leadership and advocacy skills that hinder their effectiveness in mobilizing and providing leadership at local level. This is part of BVTA`s broad strategy as enshrined in their 2016 – 2018 Strategic Plan to build capacity of vendors to be able function and have better lives.

The scope of the trainings focused on BVTA Constitution and reminded the structures on their leadership constitutional obligations, their term of office as well as functions and roles played by BVTA Executive Committee.

Essentially the trainings acquainted members of Ward Structures about key aspects in leadership. The trainings emphasized that leadership is about motivation, inspiring people to aspire and make positive contributions in communities and changing their lives. Ward structures were sharpened with knowledge on qualities of good leaders for example that good leaders have a vision for the future, have strength of personality, the will power of a never say die attitude.
The Ward structures were made aware that good leadership is not about use of coercive means, force, and abuse of authority, abuse of power or use of threats to get the work done.

The course handed BVTA Ward leaders with a tools box of leadership skills that is envisaged to assist in leading membership within communities. It emphasized that leadership skills are tools, behaviors and capabilities that a person needs in order to be at motivating and directing others. The skills were portrayed as characters of professions such as the behavior of a Captain who directs the sail, who delegates duties, gardener someone who cultivates trusts and makes members of the group feel the sense of belonging and ownership of the group or organization. Furthermore, a diplomat someone who is able to solve conflicts that are inevitable in groups, the talk show host someone who is an effective communicator and who masters nonverbal communication among other skills.

The training course was complemented by imparting vendors with lobby and advocacy skills that will enable vendors and informal traders to organize themselves and speak against to find solutions that affect them in their day to day lives. The course has already to motivated vendors to organize themselves and speak in one voice in order to improve their conditions especially the constant violation of rights and abuse from law enforcement agents. An increase of vendors visiting the organizational offices to join the association has been recorded.

One woman vendor from Ward 7 confessed how the training has helped her to change the way she thinks and  conducted her business “I have been stuck in my vending bay for the rest of my life to the point that I had quit attending church services, these trainings have made me to gain useful information to do other things, I have learnt that I can delegate someone to remain manning my vending bay whilst I attend to other issues in the community and seeking other opportunities that may arise in the informal sector”

The trainings envisages to improve coordination of activities of vendors and informal traders at ward level. This form of decentralization will make the organisation more accessible and be able to promptly respond to the needs of vendors across the city.

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.

Chaos reigns supreme at Renkini Bus Terminus

A stroll at Renkini bus terminus leaves one wondering whether city fathers are willing to make travelers have a dignified welcome to the city and a good send off to their respective destinations or a forgettable visit to Bulawayo. The parking at the Renkini bus terminus lots are dilapidated, the waiting shades roofs have fallen off. The perimeter fence is now nonexistent, lights are not working, and near the toilets one is welcomed by stench and disgusting odor and a drench of human liquid waste and sometimes solid waste especially in the mornings. Sadly vendors are pushing and shoving trading consumables near these toilets. Chaos reigns supreme, traders are not separated, there is a concoction of those trading food stuffs and while others are selling wares that could be hazardous to human health if mixed with goods meant for human consumption. Sadly again travelers get squashed in some surviving shades when it is raining and their goods get soaked in the process.
What is striking is that there are city council security officers or revenue collectors who frequent buses demanding money for the use of the terminus, now the question is, where is that money going to if it is not used to repair or spruce the infrastructure. I do not think that the city council needs a lot of money to maintain a good sight of the bus terminus. I am convinced it is negligence and sleeping on the wheel by the city fathers that has left the bus terminus an eyesore. The state of affairs at the bus terminus needs urgent attention if the tag “City Kings “is to be retained if not maintained.
Whilst it is popular knowledge that the council has other pressing priorities, I think the funds collected at the terminus must be used to maintain and improve it. I am not proposing a state of the art refurbishment like the Egodini proposed project. In the short- term whilst waiting for the start and completion of the proposed Egodini international terminus and shopping mall, the city council can purchase a few liters of paint, few roofing sheets and refill some potholes at the terminus. A perimeter fence is not very expensive that council cannot afford if attention is given to the terminus. I am also aware that the major problem at the terminus is vandalism.
• Efforts should be made to engage the neighborhood watch, the police and council also has a security department, strategies can be found to deal vandalism at the terminus.
• The council can also engage some private transport operators to donate materials for use to refurbish the bus terminus; I do not think they will not be willing to assist since they will benefit from a properly functioning and secure terminus.
• Incentives such as advertising on billboards, bins could be awarded to transport operators and other players who will assist in the sprucing up of the terminus.
• The city council can also create linkages with private advertising companies who conduct public awareness road shows, community radio stations, civil society organizations to sensitize communities on the impact of vandalism as communities are the ones that are affected.
• Councils should enforce or introduce trading zones for those selling non foodstuffs to be on the other side and separated from the ones selling foodstuffs.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni