Over the past month Harare has experienced a visible upsurge of vending activities in the Central Business District (CBD). However, this comes as a strong threat to the survival of formal traders as they are now subjected to enormous competition from the streets.
Vendors have since moved in to occupy all open spaces available in town which include street corners, pavements and road islands. Some are now operating in front of retail outlets selling the same commodities as some of those that will be on sale in the shops.
In an interview with 263Chat, a manager of a retail shop along Julius Nyerere Way who refused to be named as he was not cleared to speak to the media by his superior said that the increase in vending activities in town was a big threat to the formal traders as it provided unfair competition.
“Some vendors are now selling the same products found in shops and this is now subjecting us as shops to unfair competition because we are now being forced to compete with unlicensed traders who do not pay rentals or tax. The vendors are even selling the products at cheaper prices than shops thereby taking customers away from shops,” said the shop manager.
In the past, vendors in the CBD were known to sell airtime, soft drinks, sweets, newspapers as well as other products which were not found in most shops but, nowadays vendors are now trading in almost everything from clothing both used and new, basic commodities such as soaps, towels and food stuffs as well as phone accessories.
Another retail operator near Charge Office who refused to be named for fear of victimisation said that authorities needed to deal with the issue of vending in the CBD decisively as it was now becoming a time bomb waiting to explode.
“If unabated now, many people will lose their jobs as shops will close down due to lack of business. As we speak, I know of two shops in this street that are considering closing down or changing locations due to the issue of vendors who on the pavements,” said the retail operator.
Some business offices have already relocated to the CBD’s surrounding suburbs such as Eastlea, Avondale, Newlands and other areas citing the issue of vending which they said was becoming unfavorable for their operations.
However, vendors who spoke to 263Chat said they were not worried that their activities were threatening survival of shops saying that it was now a matter of survival in the current economic hardships. One vendor along Robert Mugabe Way identified as Tinashe (22) said that unemployment was driving people on the streets.
“We have no option other than to vend on the streets because currently there are no jobs and vending has since become a source of levity for many. In fact, vending and touting are the only remaining jobs for us poor people,” said Tinashe.
In his address at the launch of Harare’s Sustainable Clean-up Campaign 2015 that was launched in February, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works Dr Ignatius Chombo noted that vending activities in the CBD were becoming a threat to the survival of most businesses and urged law enforcement authorities to take action.
“Government agencies under the aforementioned Ministers (Small and Medium Enterprises, Environment Water and Climate, Health and Child) together with the Harare city Council are going to be the enforcement agents with immediate effect. There should be no vending on road pavements, traffic intersections, road islands, middle of the road and in front of shops and offices,” said Dr Chombo then.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing an economic meltdown for the past decade which has seen the country experiencing a high unemployment rate that has been put at over 90% by some.