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Informal traders defy council ban, flood CBD

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has observed the re-emergence of unauthorised informal trading, saying this development goes against COVID-19 protocols and has resulted in congestion in some parts of the Central Business District (CBD).

BCC permanently closed off the Fifth Avenue Market which catered for hundreds of vendors, operating from Robert Mugabe to Lobengula Street, to any form of trading, as a response to the spread of COVID-19.

But after the relaxation of the national lockdown to Level 2, informal traders have since returned to the CBD to sell their wares, in defiance of the ban.

In an interview with CITE, Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni said the unauthorised re-emergence of informal trading was a concern to the local authority.

“We are seized with the matter and as a city, we are trying to enforce by-laws as we have taken note of the presence of informal traders because of the relaxing of the lockdown.  People came back to town thinking it was now ok to go back and start selling outside Edgars or OK. Even at the Fifth Avenue market we have told our municipal police to be on alert yet we scaled down operations and the manpower to be deployed there is a challenge,” he said.

The mayor also pointed out that the council would need assistance from the government on what measures to take since the fight against COVID-19 was coordinated nationally.

“Ordinarily, the fight against COVID-19 is coordinated by the government in terms of security mechanism where the police and army are carrying out enforcement, even the local provincial task force in the city sees council take on a part role,” Cllr Mguni said.

Municipal police confiscate some of the wares from the vendors for defying the council ban

He noted that during a global pandemic, citizens had to practice self-discipline to survive and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“As residents, stakeholders and as a country, we must be self-disciplined. This does not require to be policed for your health and safety. Informal traders must follow regulations, do they want to be chased by the army and police in terms of curbing or mitigating the effects of COVID-19? It is therefore up to one to self-discipline themselves, we can’t afford to throw caution to the wind when numbers of positive cases are surging upwards,” the mayor said.

Cllr Mguni added that council is working with a skeletal staff, as part of social distancing, so it was challenging to monitor people.

However, the mayor said they were alive to the economic struggles residents are facing, which was forcing them out of their homes.

He said the challenge was authorities did not have sufficient safety nets for its citizens.

“The government doesn’t seem to have enough safety nets, unlike other countries which provide for the vulnerable. We haven’t seen much of people receiving safety nets. Which begs the question if there is a structure to cater for vulnerable people?

“Go to the western areas, you will see people selling lots of items, some are even selling liquor on the streets, others are selling from their cars as people have set up vending stalls. The government must provide structures that look into welfare, especially the informal sector who lost their jobs and employment,” Mayor Mguni said.

He pleaded with citizens to be compliant to COVID-19 protocols, continue practising social distancing, washing their hands and avoid unnecessary travelling.

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