Xenophobic Attacks on Immigrants, the Plight of Informal Traders and Cross Border Traders

The continent of Africa is currently in torment reaction over the prevalence of violent attacks on immigrants residing and working in South Africa. As a people we strongly condemn such dereliction and very much concerned about protection and safety of informal traders whose wares are readily available for the consumer in the nearest street proximity. As Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET), we are deeply concerned on the safety Street Vendors of South African Origin whose operational space has been redesigned into a volatile environment with broad day light violence against immigrants.

Above all, not only immigrants residing in South Africa are affected but also Cross Border Traders who, once or twice a week have to restock their wares through imports from South Africa. Over the past seven days, deaths and severe injuries have been the order of the day. With such a setting, an informal trader is prohibited for transaction and is likely to experience a significant loss of capital as most, if not all, their stock is perishable products.

Considering the hot-blooded environment in the Informal Sector, Cross Border Trader is heftily affected by the prevailing situation as attacks on immigrants have spilled to border areas where most of Cross Borders weekly transact to restock their wares in most parts all of Zimbabwe. There has been notable absence of vital goods and products in shelves of Small and Medium enterprise operators as violence against immigrants is now directly affecting free movements of goods from one country to another. As the Zimbabwean economy is striving on imports mainly from South Africa, we demand our government to take necessary measures to ensure the protection of Cross Border Traders.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area initiative’s prime objective is to promote free movement of goods, services and people for African economic transformation. Complimentary to the broader objective is our Small and Medium Enterprise ministry that is aimed at improving local economy through informal traders, hence stock availability is thwarted by the occurrence of xenophobic attacks. The political and social rivalry amongst African nations should not be tolerated as it is affecting bilateral relations, including movement of goods and services among nations. Southern Africa is now an unstable region for smooth regional integration as we have witnessed citizen reactions from Zambia with violent attacks on South African Multi Nationals business. Such tense reactions are not a lasting solution. We are calling on the governments of the Southern African communities to consider the following recommendations.

  1. With the on-going World Economic Forum taking place in South Africa, a mechanism to halt xenophobia attacks should be part of the agenda.
  2. Visibly promote the statues of the African Continental Free Trade Area and our African Ubuntu.
  3. Improve security reactions, perpetrators of violence be brought to book and face the wrath of law.
  4. The Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises, put in place early warning systems for the safety of cross border traders who are caught unaware.
  5. Quick reaction of security authorities to avoid loss of lives, vandalism and available stock in wares.

Source: Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)