The country’s economy has seen a drastic collapse since 2000. Once a fairly industrialised country, Zimbabwe is now a vast informal economy.
With the scarcity of formal jobs as companies downsize or close shop altogether because of the harsh economic environment, the major source of income for a majority of locals is vending.
But the vending licence fees have skyrocketed beyond reach with Hwange Rural District Council (RDC) increasing fees from US$36 to US$114, thus jeopardising informal traders’ incomes, vendors in Hwange claim.
For Sithabile Moyo, vending has been her only source of income to sustain her family for the past years but the new fees threaten her business.
“The increase in vending licences by the council is suffocating our means of livelihood and we are likely to be out of business soon. Even the US$36 that was being charged before the increase was too much,” says Moyo.
The Hwange Vendors and Traders Association (HVTA) has since appealed to the Hwange RDC to consider reducing the vending licence fees.
HVTA spokesperson, Elton Mguni says the increase is a blow to traders as they have not yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 induced lockdown losses.
“We are deeply saddened by this because most of us have been hit hard by COVID-19 induced lock downs since 2020,” Mguni says.
“We have written to the Hwange RDC to review these charges. We are not saying we don’t want to pay but we ask them to revert to the previous fees and this will be better for us.”
Mguni says the informal sector employs many in the face of high unemployment rates. The collapse of the economy has seen thousands of traders flooding the streets.
Hundreds of thousands of school leavers are graduating with no hope of formal employment. Unemployment now hovers around 85% and for many, the only hope is now in the informal sector.
In a letter to Hwange RDC, Greater Whange Residents Trust chairperson Fidelis Chima and the HVTA described the new informal trading fees as outrageous.
“We are shocked at how you arrived at that amount of an annual fee…We are very much alive to the fact that before you came up with new tariffs you were supposed to consult us as key stakeholders and unfortunately you never bothered,” letter reads in part.
“We therefore beseech you to revert to previous fees of US$36 as we are not able to pay new rates.”
But Hwange RDC chief executive officer, Phindile Ncube says he has not received any complaints from informal traders.
He however says his office is ready to engage with informal traders.
“I have not received any formal communication from the affected traders. I suggest the affected individuals approach my office. I stand ready to engage our stakeholders. Any tariff adjustments that affect our people in their operations are dealt with in terms of the law,” Ncube says.
Indications are that an estimated 300 registered vendors operate under Hwange RDC, and fears are bound that the figure might decrease due to the increased licence fees.
Several hundreds of other vendors are often engaged in running battles with municipal police as they do not pay the vending fees at all and operate illegally.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin