BVTA Press Statement on Workers Day Commemorations on May 1 2017

 

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.

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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.

Jumping logs in entrances is dehumanizing shoppers.

logs

Yesterday during lunch was doing some shopping in down town in Bulawayo. Overtime I have been observing an evil tendency by most shops that trade Chinese products in down town and a few in central business district; they put logs at the entrance. I observed old women with babies on their backs and men struggling to jump the logs, one disabled lady had to change her mind from entering the shop. This deprives the woman the right to chose where to shop and also it does not make any business sense. I mean the dollar for two shops that sell affordable products that most Zimbabweans are clad on these days; it is degrading human treatment that I think comes with greed.
Shop owners must hire enough security to man the entrance and exit points and carry out body searches that are known everyone than to degrade desperate innocent women to fold their skirts whilst exposing their essentials. Should we celebrate this in the name of reducing cases of stealing in shops. If you have not felt the pain just take your old granny or grandfather and attempt to enter these shops. Some of these men and women are trying to earn a living by buying and selling under very difficult prevailing economic conditions. One will argue that the logs are meant to reduce shoplifting but it is the role of the security to be in the lookout for such. Where are the rights organizations, women rights activist to confront the Bulawayo City council to stop this dehumanizing treatment of shoppers, I nearly fell trying to jump the log what more about an elderly woman. My question is it legal for shop owners to put logs at their entrance and exit. It is a good business practice. I think as a people we can do better. I am introducing a new campaign: “LETS KICK THE LOGS AND CLEAR THE WAY”

The Zimbabwean government must make the constitution known to its citizens

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Deep in the remote area under Chief Dakamela in Nkayi district, a group old men and women and a sizeable number of youths gather under the zinc roofed shade to discuss the contents of the new constitution. Hats off to this youth focused organization that has taken upon itself to engage both the young and the old on the constitution, amid difficulties in getting permission from security authorities to carryout constitutional awareness meetings. The greatest challenge in this discussion is that there is only one copy of the constitution to be shared by a group of 20 people. This booklet is written in English and there are old women and men who are finding it difficult to comprehend the English language used in the constitution. What boggles the mind is that a country that brags so much about high literacy levels fails to produce copies of the constitution written in vernacular languages.   

A lot of work still needs to be done to promote public awareness of the constitution. Chapter (1) Section 7 obligates the state to translate the constitution into officially recognized languages in this case the 16 languages stated in the new constitution. It further alludes that the constitution must be taught in schools as part of the curricula, training for the members of the civil service, security services and employees at the public institutions. All these obligations have not been implemented as required by the constitution. Communities are still lamenting abuse and infringement of their rights at public offices. This means that the state is undermining the supremacy of the constitution. Other critical provisions that the state seem to be developing cold feet in implementing is Devolution of government power to provincial and metropolitan councils under Chapter 14 subsection 264. It is now 8 months since the new government came into power and up to date there is no talk about introducing an Act of parliament that will enable Devolution of governmental to provinces. These provisions will empower people to make decisions that address their developmental needs, as it is people are still at the mercy of central government to make decisions on critical issues that affect them. For example floods in Tsholotsho had to wait for a high powered ministerial delegation from the central government in order for flood victims to get assistance.

Due to time that has gone without implementing devolution of governmental power, perceptions that the ZANU PF led government is not sincere about implementing such provisions come into play as the revolutionary party vehemently opposed it during the outreach meetings. It remains to be seen whether the party will respect and honor the constitution and demonstrate the will in making efforts to educate people about the constitution.

The media was awash with the news of the signing of the supreme law of the land under pomp and fanfare at state house but all that hype has died down. The people have been forgotten that they have a right to know the constitution. To a larger extent the document contains their views as gathered during the constitutional outreach programme but some provisions were a result of negotiations between the three political parties that led the process. One will argue that people know the constitution since they voted for it during the referendum but only 3 million Zimbabweans out of over 7 million  eligible to vote participated in the in referendum, which means that a significant number of Zimbabwean do not know anything about the contents of the constitution. Failure by the government to promote public awareness of the constitution is a violation of Chapter 4 subsection 62, which states that every Zimbabwean has the right of access of information held by the state in the interests of public accountability.

The government must develop mechanisms that will enable communities to know the contents of the constitution.

·         It can use the state television, radios though in most parts of the country there is very limited reception of television and radio signal to broadcast programmes that educate people about constitution.

·         Partner with civil society organizations and carryout joint sensitization meetings within communities.

·         Translate the constitution into local languages and distribute to communities.

·         Task all members of parliament to carryout constitutional sensitization meetings in their constituencies.

·         Local authorities to task councilors to carry out constitutional sensitization meetings in their wards

·         Waive seeking of police clearance to discuss constitutional matters as this violates the right of access to information.

·         Introduce information centres in all districts for people to access information on government programmes.

 

 

By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni