Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) says there is a need for the government to enact laws that promote the growth of the informal sector as one of the key drivers of the economy and protect players in the sector.
This came out during a Public Opinion Space virtual meeting held by Women Institute Leadership Development (WILD) to discuss Hawkers and Vendors tariff hikes and their impact on informal traders in Bulawayo.
The informal sector is estimated to contribute between 40 and 50 percent of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) and an estimated 42% of the country`s national employment.
In 2018, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that Zimbabwe had the second highest informal economy in the world.
Speaking during the meeting, BVTA executive director, Michael Ndiweni said the laws that govern the sector need to be reformed.
“We need to reform the laws that govern the sector, if you look at the attitude, the perception about the sector, anyone who sees a vendor sees a potential criminal, so there is a perception about vendors being criminals in this country,” said Ndiweni.
“We have seen how people are treated, if you go to Fife Avenue, the former market, you would have seen how people are treated there, if you go now there are those people who are still thinking about taking chances and trading there, if you look at how they are treated. We have a feeling that there is undermining, dehumanising treatment that is perpetrated against vendors and informal traders.”
He said the old laws have disadvantaged most traders in the sector.
“Colonial laws, in my view kind of disadvantaged or criminalised the issue of informal trading or sort to disadvantage people from trading and even the issue of legislation that has been put in place seem to be disadvantaged people in the informal sector,” said BVTA Director.
Ndiweni added that there is a need for the involvement of the informal sector in the planning processes of national economic development.
“What is needed is that the government recognises the sector and value its contribution in the economy because if you look at the IMF report of 2018 says that our GDP in Zimbabwe about 70 percent of our GDP comes from the sector so this speaks to the significant contribution of the sector in the economy.
“We saw some shocking figures that were proposed as punitive measures to ensure that vendors abide by the law from Bulawayo City Council, the proposed fines were just going to increase allegations of corruption in the sector,” said Ndiweni.
He noted that the local authority should have engaged the sector before coming up with punitive fines.
The local authority recently released a new schedule of fines which will see vendors operating without licenses being required to pay $50, while those that fail to produce a license will be required to pay $100.
According to schedule, vendors who conduct boot sales will now pay $200, selling goods at undesignated areas will attract a fine of $400, making noise by using a hailer or radio $400, roasting maize at undesignated areas; $200, selling prohibited goods; $500 and littering of any form will now attract a fine of $300.
Speaking during the same meeting, ward 17 Councillor, Sikhululekile Moyo said the local authority is working hard to improve the situation of vendors.
“The gazetted fines that people have seen, they have not yet been implemented, we are only dealing with relocation for now and relocating the licenced vendors for 2020 who were displaced by closure of Fife Avenue, the relocation is not based on gender or any other criteria but those with 2020 licenses,” said Cllr Moyo.
She said the council is still making efforts to improve access to water and ablution facilities at the new vending sites in residential areas.