Call for support, inclusive engagement and protection of informal traders

The 2020 Workers’ Day commemorations, being held under the theme “Stop The COVID-19 Pandemic – Scale Up Social Protection and Dialogue, Save Jobs and Pay a Living Wage”, come at a time when the world is grappling with the COVID–19 pandemic that is threatening lives and sources of livelihoods.

It comes at a time when, the majority of Zimbabwe’s population, who are involved in the informal sector, faces immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed by the effects of COVID–19.

The ACBOs noted with grave concern, a circular dated 8 April 2020, in which the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works ordered rural and urban local authorities to comply with the 9th Cabinet Meeting resolution whose effect is aimed at taking advantage of the ongoing national lockdown to, “clean up Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and informal trader’s workspaces”. Following this ministerial directive, we have learnt through our membership that, some local authorities in Matabeleland South and North, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, East and West, Midlands, Bulawayo and Harare, have demolished informal sector workspaces without reasonable notice and allowance for those affected to remove their property, while some have issued ultimatums requiring citizens to remove their market stalls pending demolitions. The timing coupled with failure to consult, render such actions unlawful and administratively unfair.

While the health of our citizen’s matters, the continued unilateral formulation and implementation of public policy without the involvement of citizens is worrisome and does more harm than address key challenges. We wish to remind the government of Zimbabwe that the existence of the informal traders’ workspaces is attributed to poverty and formal unemployment, all of which stem from poor governance systems and structures, creating room for and perpetuating gender inequity and social exclusion.

Therefore, informal trade plays a significant role in combating the menacing threats of unemployment, and has become an alternative to sustain livelihoods for communities.

The informal sector consists of economic endeavors of a subsistence nature such as retail trade, restaurants, repair services, financial inter-mediation, food and non-food wares and other personal services. These have sustained livelihoods of families in an economic environment characterised by high levels of policy inconsistence and uncertainty, the informal sector has become the new normal. The informal traders’ workspaces are therefore, important hubs for innovation, service delivery and economic activity.

However, the current set up of informal traders’ workspaces, arise from inadequate infrastructure, failure by government to fully embrace the sector and a serious lack of targeted investments in such economic areas.

In order to holistically address the challenges confronting the informal sector, the ACBOs, calls upon the government and local authorities to;

  • As a matter of urgency, immediately stop the ongoing and scheduled demolitions
  • Embrace the informal sector, urgently engage in dialogue and implement a universal social protection model that will guarantee the fundamental social services and rights of informal traders.
  • Ensure full accountability and transparency in the identification of and assistance rendered to SME’s and informal sector beneficiaries under social protection schemes
  • Focus on and direct resources towards ensuring the provision of information and training on occupational safety and health and provision of personal protective equipment supplies to include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and water among others as part of prevention and control measures.

Source: Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs)