As the debate on chaotic street vending rages, Government on Monday responded by giving illegal vendors a seven-day ultimatum to move to new designated spaces.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo finally dropped the bombshell this week, directing local authorities to deal with illegal structures sprouting on the streets. He said law enforcement agents would be asked to help clear the streets if vendors do not comply. Over the months illegal vendors have been abusing the First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe’s name by misinterpreting a statement she made during Women’s Day commemorations earlier this year.
Streets soon filled up, giving no consideration for other users. Some vendors are even roasting mealies in the CBD under unsanitary conditions. It was chaos. The ultimatum has drawn mixed reactions from vendors. Ras Jola is a vendor operating from an illegal point along Julius Nyerere Way. He is one of many vendors to be moved to a holding bay (Coventry Road/ Rotten Row) by Monday. Jola is not willing to move. “They should have set up designated areas for different goods to be sold but it is now too late,” he said. Some of the vendors said removing them from the streets without offering them alternative working sites would fuel crime. Petinas Nyamuzinga, a fruit vendor, said: “What is Government going to do for me if they remove me from here? It is not our choice because there are no other options.” Though urban by-laws permit hawking and street vending, the regulations are clear.
One has to be registered, carry a permit and operate within provided vending sites. According to Statutory Instrument (SI) 159 of 2014, vendors are liable to a daily or monthly fee once issued with a permit. Vendors legally operating pay between $2 and $8 per day to council.
Offences and penalties, according to the SI, justify the call to remove the vendors from the streets. It further stipulates that “any person who sells any goods or foodstuffs without a permit or lease agreement; or . . . sells any goods at any place other than a vending site or other than in any terms of any other legislation . . . shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or one year imprisonment or to both such fine and imprisonment.” The by-laws also focus on the cleanliness of the stands or stalls in a vending site as well as the health concerns. The SI also states that vendors “take adequate precautions to safeguard the food from dirt, dust, pests, vermin, or other contamination.”
This is not being observed, risking the health of the public. Harare Informal Traders Council president Mr Onismo Gore said inasmuch as people were trying to earn an honest living, sanity should be brought back to the CBD. He said relocations would be good for the sector which is the biggest employer in the country. “We are saying all vendors should move to designated places to create order and cleanliness in the CBD. Who can resist this decision to create order serve for empty vessels?” he said. “What we should be crying for are enough sites to accommodate the growing number of people surviving on vending. “It is imperative that genuine vendors apply to the city for vending stalls than fight. We all need a clean and well managed city that can also provide us with better services,” he said. But the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe thinks otherwise. Its director, Samuel Wadzai, said the seven-day ultimatum was draconian as it gave the vendors no alternative. “In his order, the minister does not provide alternative spaces for the vendors who will be affected by such an inconsiderate operation. In Harare alone such an operation will affect over 100 000 vendors.
“Dr Chombo must be at the forefront inasfar as efforts at legalising, organising and formalising vending are concerned,” he said. “He has, however, chosen to become an impediment to this process,” he said. He added: “We will communicate the same to our members that they will never be removed from current vending sites unless alternative and equally profitable vending sites are provided for them.
“We are not opposed to endeavours that bring sanity to the City of Harare but livelihoods must never be sacrificed.” Solutions Urban planners and analysts have urged Government and local authorities to develop ways of incorporating vendors into the city economy.
They said planning laws and regulations must be changed to embrace informality. Town planner Mr Davison Muchadenyika said: “The informal sector must be tapped in so that local authorities also benefit monetary wise. For instance, there is economic and planning wisdom in designating ‘green streets’ where vendors are allowed to sell their wares for two or three hours a day. The timing of these ‘green streets’ can be after 4pm every day.” He said the only way to address urbanisation ills in cities was through by home-grown urban planning solutions grounded in the reality of urban poverty.
“Zimbabwe’s record of having sophisticated and high standards of urban planning should be renounced. This record has been kept at the expense of the advancement of our cities and people,” he said. Another town planner, Mr Percy Toriro, said vending was part of a city’s informal sector. “Planning for vending should therefore be understood and performed in the broader context of the informal economic planning in Harare. There is no structured way of apportioning land for vending sites,” he said. Mr Toriro, however, added that general sound town planning logic must apply and be linked to behavioural expectations of vendors. “As an example, the sites must be close to sanitary facilities. “The sites must, however, also be located along or near major human traffic corridors without closing off the same corridors. It must be for public convenience without causing inconvenience,” he said.
He added that there was need to create acceptable vending sites. “When the sites are in a sensitive area as the CBD, extra care must be taken to ensure trading spaces and structures are aesthetically acceptable. The different stakeholder interests must also be considered such as the interests of formal businesses. The city authorities must create a fair trading platform and therefore protect everyone’s interests.”Urban Development Corporation planning officer Mr Shingai Kawadza said street vending was a global phenomenon with millions earning a living by selling of goods and services on the streets.
“The salience of selling goods and services on the street can be attributed to the collapse of alternative sources of income. Vending has become a vital safety net for the urban poor. “In addition, there is always a ready market for vendors. Street vending is a ready option as it requires comparatively little income,” he said. Mr Kawadza said Government could control vendors through policy and legislation.
“Proactive planning is the most a commonly used approach by many planners to design and manage urban space. “Pro-active planning and poor planning practices lead local authorities to incur unnecessary investment cost in white elephant infrastructure. “A reactive design approach to urban infrastructure and informal sector advocates for a pre-planning that looks forward for the carrying out of empirical studies providing the basis for planning analysis and the study of urban sociology (behavioral) in order to identify a location in space that favours certain activities,” he said. Mr Kawadza said managing shared public space, such as periodic markets like what used to be done by City of Harare during weekends and public holidays along Park Street, were important. “Designate cluster zones in the city for their operation. In other words, there should be designated vending sites. These clusters create a strong public realm which is enhanced by the close interaction of customers and sellers,” he said. Street vendors, according to Mr Kawadza, face many difficulties despite their positive contribution to the socio-economic well-being of the country.
“The most common problems include lack of legal status, lack of space or poor allocation, restrictions on licensing and cost of regulation, lack of services and infrastructure, lack of representation and harassment, bribes, confiscation of goods and evictions.” However, he was against forcible removal of vendors from the streets as it was only temporary. “As long as Government doesn’t address the issue of poverty through employment creation, eliminating vending in our urban landscapes is a pipe dream,” he said.
Harare City Council principal spokesperson, Mr Michael Chideme, said they had created enough space for vendors and would continue doing so to match the growing need. Harare has more than 20 000 registered vendors, the bulk of which have stopped paying fees, depriving the city of considerable revenue. Mr Chideme said the greatest problem was the resistance by the vendors to go to designated sites. “We have 17 approved sites in the city centre and council is in the process of constructing others outside as a way of decongesting the CBD. “Harare now has a committee that deals with the affairs of the informal sector. “This is meant to increase dialogue between vendors and council. “Not all are paying because the majority is operating illegally. Levying them on present illegal sites will be legalising illegalities. Indeed, the city is losing several thousands of dollars,” he said. He said the relocation of the informal sector to designated sites was a process that required the buy-in of all stakeholders.“The city is engaging all stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition from the present to the ideal. The city is in partnership with investors to build new markets in Mbare that will accommodate over 12 000.
“Our consultations note that the informal sector requires decent and sheltered sites to do business. The shelters are not taking the vendors from the market. They are actually creating a conducive market that attracts customers through order and cleanliness,” he said. The ultimatum has resonated with calls by Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere who challenged local authorities to give vendors proper vending cites. Speaking during the recently held Green Concert in Harare, Minister Kasukuwere said vendors were compromising cities’ standards. “Vendors should be given proper places to sell their wares. We are not saying they should stop selling their wares but it is wrong for you to start doing so in front of Greatermans or OK. We must not compromise the standards of our cities by these activities,” he said.
Source : The Herald