Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation (VISET) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day.

These commemorations, which come at a time when the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) come to a conclusion, emphasise the need to extend the issue of addressing GBV in all spheres of life to be an everyday challenge for the state and its institutions as well as civic society and families. Given the increase in GBV cases, there is need for all stakeholders to undertake work 365 days a year.

The theme of the commemorations: #Standup4HumanRights, aptly puts the issue of human rights at the centre of everything, more so for those in the informal sector. This year’s commemorations of the Human Rights Day come on the back of wanton and unprecedented violation of vendors’ rights by the police and local authorities. Over the past 3 months street vendors and other informal sector workers have been brutalised, tortured and their wares looted in an operation by the police and council authorities. This operation has been characterised by gross violations of human rights which the government has not addressed despite calls to do so by VISET and other rights groups in the country.

The violence has been disproportionate to the issues at hand and has affected women more than any other group. This is because women constitute more than 70% of street vendors and are the most vulnerable group.

Sights of women with children on their backs being teargased and assaulted by riot police betray the deplorable state of human rights in Zimbabwe. It is further ample evidence that as a country we are a long way from respecting and upholding fundamental rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also our national Constitution.

As VISET we thus call on the authorities to demonstrate that indeed Zimbabwe is on a path towards the rule of law and respect of human rights by undertaking the following recommendations in respect of rights violations in the informal sector:

  • The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission must investigate the nature and extent of rights violations which occurred when police and council authorities displaced vendors of town.
  • Compensating all vendors who lost their wares during the raids by police and council authorities. The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides safeguards to all citizens from compulsory acquisition of their property by any authority and as such, street vendors should be protected by this provision and their wares returned or compensated for equal value.
  • Urgently setting up the Independent Commission for handling complaints against members of the security sector as set out in section 210 of the Constitution. This would provide a platform for victims of police brutality to get redress and thus protect their rights.

Over and above, we reinstate our commitment to socio-economic transformation and boldly state that for this to happen, the government of Zimbabwe must develop a culture of protecting, promoting and upholding the rights of those in the informal sector and indeed the citizenry in general.

Source: Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation (VISET)