VISET Update – 20-21 April 2020

VISET has been collecting information on the current events that are happening in Zimbabwe through its leadership structures. The leadership structures are made up of Socio-Economic Champions (SOCHAMPs) who then create social media platforms (WhatsApp) for dialogue with members as a way of disseminating information while the whole nation is under lockdown and therefore upholding the measures being implemented by the Government.

In Harare, on the 19th of April 2020, the Municipal Police is reported to have demolished all the makeshift structures which are used by informal traders at Machipisa Shopping Centre in Harare. These have been very important to the informal sector as they protect them from weather conditions like the sun and rain. In Kuwadzana 4, informal traders opted to dismantle their market stalls before the Municipal Police demolished them. It was also reported that the police were making door to door inspections to the known informal traders threatening to demolish their businesses and in return demanding bribes. Vendors at Chigovanyika Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza have also removed their stalls and wares ahead of the scheduled demolitions. In Waterfalls and Mufakose, the Municipal Police have already demolished the vending structures. The Harare City Council has failed to provide enough vending sites with adequate infrastructure such as shades, running water and lighting and yet they are demolishing these structures without offering alternative vending sites to the informal traders.

In Mutare, the Sakubva Produce Market has been closed again with informal traders being allowed to operate from satellite markets as a way of decongesting and decentralising. In Harare, at Machipisa Shopping Centre, soldiers are reported to be harassing and beating up people almost on a daily basis. In Glenview 1, police are now following people and vandalizing and brutalizing people who are doing their businesses at home. Likewise, in Chiredzi, soldiers are beating up people at night, they are allegedly targeting tuck-shop owners who operate during the late hours. One tuck-shop owner is reported missing after she was taken by soldiers around 10pm on Monday.

In Masvingo, it has been reported that the Local Authority has imposed the fixed water bills at ZW$870.70. This has happened soon after the President of Zimbabwe announced an extension of the lockdown on the 19th of April 2020. This increase in water charges was met with heavy criticism from the informal traders as most of them are not able to make ends meet under this lockdown. In Masvingo again the informal traders have expressed concern over the recent hikes in rentals by landlords by 100%. For example a room which used to cost US$10 is now costing US$20. Many of the vendors have expressed their concern on how they will sustain livelihoods because of the extended lockdown. Many can barely afford food and rentals and are yet to receive the cushioning fund as announced by the Government of Zimbabwe.

On a positive note, through the WhatsApp groups that have been created by VISET SOCHAMPs, the Masvingo informal traders are now able to provide themselves with information about the availability of subsidized basic commodities like mealie meal. This is helping informal traders to access basic commodities with reasonable prices. In Masvingo again the informal traders have expressed concern over the recent hikes in rentals by landlords by 100percent. For example a room which used to cost 10usd is now costing 20usd. On the WhatsApp platforms, many of the vendors have expressed their concern over the shortage of food in their houses considering the timeframe and extension of the National lockdown.

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

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