Statement on the 48 hour ultimatum on vendors

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) a member of the  Citizens Manifesto social movement wishes to condemn in the strongest of terms the ultimatum pronounced by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing on vendors operating in all cities and towns’ Central Business Districts without offering them alternative sites to carry out their trade. The ultimatum which strangely gives “vendors and pirate taxi operators 48 hours to vacate the streets in all towns and cities, or the security forces will move in to remove them” must be treated as an attack on livelihoods.   Such a move is irrational, inhuman and barbaric apart from the fact that it runs contrary to the constitutional national objective which obliges the state and all its agencies to promote private initiatives of self-reliance (Section 13) and that which obliges it remove the restrictions that prevent people from working or otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities (Section 24). VISET and allied Citizens Manifesto movements and organisations also implores the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to take full responsibility for its failure to provide adequate designated sites for us as informal traders and vendors. It would have been reasonable on the part of the Government to wait until the completion of the construction of the proposed new Bus Terminus in all the cities and towns, with a good proximity to the affected traders, and settle them there before evicting them.

Ultimatums and threats of force will only worsen the already precarious situation, there was a surge in the number of human rights abuses in the sector as a direct result of the Government’s reluctance to comply with the constitutional provisions mentioned above and also Recommendation 204 of the International Labor Organization which speaks to the need for formalization and regularization of the operations of the Informal Sector.  Last year, we saw Municipal and Zimbabwe Republic Police using force and arresting thousands of vendors as a response to the directive by the then President. In Harare alone, more than 5828 of our members reported various forms of human rights abuses. Throughout the country, arrests, imprisonment, and prosecution of thousands of street vendors also characterized the year. Our goods were confiscated and some of us were assaulted. Municipal police officers solicited bribes from us, in cash and in kind.  Some of our female colleagues reported sexual harassment and abuse wherein they had to provide sexual favours in return for their confiscated goods or for places in designated vending sites.

In the face of the above mentioned ugly events of 2017 and last Friday’s 48hr ultimatum, VISET will remain guided by the dictum that nothing beats dialogue and constructive engagement. We believe that while the government has a responsibility to decongest the cities and confine vending to the so-called designated sites, this has to be done in a manner that does not infringe on street vendors right to livelihoods. We urge the government to emulate other countries such as Kenya, Botswana, China, India and South Africa, where the vending challenge was ameliorated amicably without necessarily arresting or prosecuting vendors and we implore our government to emulate the same.  Vendors and informal traders are small businesses that, if granted adequate and appropriate support, such as access to finance, profitable markets, skills development, can grow their businesses and become macro-entrepreneurs.

It has always been VISET and the Citizens’ Manifesto’s positions that forceful eviction of informal traders will not solve the current vending morass, where such eviction does not correspond to the allocation of alternative spaces in the designated sites. If anything, it will only exacerbate it, as was witnessed in the CBDs in 2015 where in most cases the operations resulted in ugly and bloody scenes and even unnecessary loss of life as a defense of a livelihood entails doing everything within one’s powers.

We are also baffled by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo’ remarks to the effect that the affected vendors must move to designated sites as if the municipalities are able to provide such sites. VISET implores the City of Harare and other local authorities throughout the country to do an assessment in respect of the consequences on the livelihoods to millions of vendors and their dependents the evictions will cause. VISET will this week meet with the Ministry of Local Government and the Mayor of Harare with a view to finding a more human alternative to the intended evictions but in the event that such doesn’t yield any positive results, the organization will approach the courts.

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

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