Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) is flabbergasted by comments made by Public service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima on occasion of Africa Public Service Day commemoration. Minister Mavima is quoted in a local daily newspaper as saying that government paid out support to over 300 000 informal traders and vulnerable households since August last year until December.
VISET would like to set the record that none of its members received this relief and it would appear the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries were influential politicians and civil servants as reported by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA). If anything, what we expect to hear from government is an audit of the facility that lists the beneficiaries along with their identity particulars and addresses. There was even a court case where a clerk was found to have diverted cell phone lines that had money deposited in them and we would want to know if restitution of the embezzled funds happened.
It is our considered belief that Social Security for the informal sector should not be done through haphazard piecemeal interventions that are not guided by policy, as they are then subject to abuse and patronage due to the lack of safeguards. We have in the past tabled a policy paper on a comprehensive social security scheme proposal for the informal sector and have availed ourselves for consultations with Minister Mavima’s Ministry, something we hope he will take us up on.
VISET urges government to not be reactive in it’ s planning, but rather be purposeful and proactive by formulating plans that can be implemented not only in the event of lockdowns, but rather as social safety nets for the millions of men and women plying their trade and bringing in significant revenue for the country’s Gross Domestic Product. There is often misconceptions on the contribution of the informal sector to the national economy by those willing to suffer selective amnesia forgetting that at present the sector is the biggest employer in the country, despite retrogressive, insensitive actions by government as the illogical, cruel and barbaric demolitions that have time and again been carried out on the sector.
Minutes of the last Harare City Council meeting shows that revenues from the Council’s markets stood at $42 million, in spite of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and destructions. This figure can well be tripled if Council gets its act together and constructs more markets in the right localities and their officials stop conniving with space barons who actually rake in more revenue than Council through extortionate charges on traders.
We call upon government to put the informal sector at the front and centre of its economic planning and offer incentives that can better enhance the contributions of the sector to the nation’s GDP, as it does to other economic sectors and this begins by ensuring that the health and welfare of its members is taken care of.