Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) wishes to condemn in the strongest of terms the ultimatum pronounced by the Midlands Minister of State Mr Owen Ncube on vendors operating within the Central Business District without offering them alternatives sites to carry out their trade. The Minister is accusing vendors of causing the outbreak of typhoid in the city which have so far claimed seven lives. The ultimatum which strangely gives vendors 24hrs ultimatum to vacate the streets of Gweru, or security forces will move in to remove them must be treated as an attack on livelihoods. Such a move is irrational, inhuman and barbaric apart from the fact that it runs contrary to the constitutional national objective which obliges the state and all its agencies to promote private initiatives of self-reliance (Section 13) and that which obliges it remove the restrictions that prevent people from working or otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities (Section 24). As VISET we implore upon Minister Ncube and the Government to take full responsibility for its failure to provide adequate designated sites for us as informal traders and vendors and provide safe and portable water for the residence of Gweru. It would have been reasonable on the part of the Government to wait until the completion of the construction of the proposed new Bus Terminus in all cities and towns, with a good proximity to the affected traders, and settle them there before evicting them.
Ultimatums and threats of force will only worsen the already precarious situation, there was a surge in the number of human rights abuses in the sector as a direct result of the Government’s reluctance to comply with the constitutional provisions mentioned above and also Recommendation 204 of the International Labour Organisation which speaks to the need for formalization and regularization of the operations of the informal Sector. A day before the announcement of the 2018 Harmonised elections results, we saw Municipal police and security forces in Harare arresting thousands and destroying the vending stalls of vendors for no apparent reason. In Harare alone, more than 2000 of our members reported various forms of human rights abuses.
It has always been VISET’s position that forceful evictions of informal traders will not solve the current vending challenge, where such eviction does not correspond to the allocation of alternative spaces in the designated sites. If anything, it will only exacerbate it, as was witnessed in the CDBs in 2015 here in most cases the operations resulted in ugly and bloody scenes an even unnecessary loss of life as a defence of a livelihood entails doing everything within one’s powers. VISET implores the City of Gweru and other local authorities throughout the country to deal amicably with the outbreak of epidemic diseases like typhoid by treating the municipal water with effective and up to date vaccines than to put the blame on the shoulders of vendors. The City of Gweru should also do an assessment in respect of the consequences on the livelihoods to millions of vendors and their dependents the evictions will cause. VISET also wishes to express its uttermost condolences to the bereaved seven families who have lost their loved ones through this outbreak of epidemic disease. The scenario is regrettable as this should have been addressed by the government.