Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) has received with utter shock and disbelief reports that, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Officers in Mutare confiscated and later burnt a tonne of vegetables that were meant to supply hundreds of Informal Traders at Sakubva Vegetable Market. It is reported that Police Officers loaded the vegetables which had been abandoned by Informal Traders as soon as they realised that they had been ambushed. The vegetables that= were confiscated and later burnt included tomatoes, cabbages, green vegetables, lemons to mention a few. It is sad to note that this unthinkable act is happening at a time when the country in under a 21-day COVID-19 inspired lockdown and experiencing debilitating food shortage which is set to affect over 6 million Zimbabweans both in the rural and urban areas. Is it not ironic that the same Government which is burning food which is meant to alleviate the plight of the poor, is parading a begging bowl across the globe BUT back home burning the food that is meant to help the poor and vulnerable? After all, the provision of food and basic commodities is an essential service which we believe is permissible under the guidelines and measures that were promulgated by the Government
As VISET, are worried that this trend of harassment of Informal Traders during this 21 Days Lockdown and disregard for human rights is going to even get worse. Already this week alone, we have received disturbing reports of our members being followed to their houses and their merchandise being confiscated without trace. Let it be stated clearly that, as VISET we will continue to urge our members to obey the measures that were put in place by the Government to curb the further spread of the COVID-19, but surely these measures must being implemented within the confines of the constitution and realities on the ground. How do you, for example, burn food that is meant for the poor and hide behind COVID-19? Is it not a flagrant violation of our right to food, if not right to life? The right to human dignity, right to food and right to life can all not be realized if people are denied opportunities to earn livelihoods.
We urge the Government and its agencies to immediately launch an investigation into what really happened in Mutare because as far as we are concerned, events at Sakubva Market violates not only the measures and guidelines that were put in place during the lockdown but the Zimbabwe constitution and the by laws that govern the operations of Informal Economy. Despite the fact that as VISET we will continue to support the measures that were put in place by the Government, the right to carry out trade or business still remains provided for under Section 64 of the Constitution which provides for the right to freedom of choice and practice of a trade or profession. Furthermore, Section 24 of the Constitution provides for the national objective of removing restrictions that inhibit people from working or otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities.
Section 13 of the constitution obliges the government to promote private initiatives and self-reliance.
As VISET we posit that, during this lockdown, if properly supported and monitored, Informal Traders and Street vendors can provide valuable services to the urban population while adhering and be in compliance with the measures put in place by the authorities.