Response to President ED Mnangagwa’s address with regards to conditions precedent for the reopening of the Informal Sector

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) notes with weighty concern the directive by President E.D. Mnangagwa with regards to conditions precedent for the re-opening of the Informal Economy, where entities and individuals are required to register before they can resume trading.

It is VISET’s view that, under the prevailing circumstances, this condition is totally impractical and likely to result in rent-seeking behaviour from unscrupulous officials and space barons. No details were furnished as to who exactly would be the issuing authority nor what conditions one would need to satisfy. Furthermore, most informal traders’ markets were destroyed and the majority are yet to be completed, so one wonders where they will trade from.

Given past experience, VISET believes that these pronouncements by government are at best a means to extort money from informal traders, or at worst a systemic decimation of the sector where millions are now earning their survival from. AS an organisation, we remain committed to an inclusive and transparent process of formalisation and regularisation of the Informal Economy. We are however opposed to any formalisation process whose only objective is to collect money from already hard-pressed informal traders. As a country we need to actualize the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Recommendation 204 of 2015, which clearly spells out how member states must handle the process of Transitioning from the Informal to the Formal Economy. It is worth putting on record that the vast majority of people now engaged in the informal sector are not there by choice but were forced due to closure of companies. Instead of government spending time conjuring ways of inhibiting people’s livelihoods, they would be better served enacting policies that encourage the growth of the Informal Sector and creation of a stable and pro-poor economy.

Our membership has long been on the receiving end of government’s disastrous policy experiments as well as crackdowns and destruction of their trading places when their only crime is seeking a means to sustain their families. There has never been any policy that has been advanced by the government to nurture and spur the growth of the informal sector, in spite of the fact that there is a whole ministry that is meant to cater for the sector.

It is important that we point out that our organization has already been proactive in the fight against COVID-19 through countrywide provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) as well as awareness campaigns and the launching the Informal Trader Pledge/Code of Conduct whose objective is to ensure that our members adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines as promulgated by the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO). All these initiatives have been designed to protect not only our membership but greater society and we will continue to do so. What we however are vehemently opposed to is the attempt to link up registration with the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, as past experience will have us know that this is merely a fundraising exercise.

In line with our solutionistic approaches to our programming, we shall be in continuous engagement with our membership for a more robust response once more details are furnished on how exactly local authorities intend to implement this directive.

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

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