By VISET Information and Publicity Department
The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) would like to condemn in the strongest of terms the callous decision by the City of Harare to demolish Informal Traders Markets in Mbare, Harare.
It would be very irresponsible and reckless for authorities to take advantage of the COVID-19 inspired Lockdown to execute livelihoods threatening operations like what we witnessed in Mbare yesterday.
VISET is opposed to any intervention that is not inclusive and is barbaric. We believe as an organisation that the government has a responsibility to decongest the cities and confine informal trading to designated sites, BUT we maintain that this has to be done in a manner that does not infringe on street vendors’ right to livelihoods.
It is VISET’s long held position that the manner in which vendors are removed from their vending sites without the provision of a clear alternative is a flagrant human rights violation and must be avoided.
Under Section 64 of the constitution, citizens have a right to freely choose a trade or occupation. Although the exercise of this freedom may be limited by law, this limitation is a guided limitation and must be justified. VISET is of the opinion that, under the prevailing circumstances, the limitation is not justifiable as it has led to untold suffering of millions of vendors in Zimbabwe.
The operation by the City of Harare and indeed other municipalities across the country has left vendors and their families, drawn from the most economically marginalized and vulnerable sectors of Zimbabwean society, without any source of livelihood in the face of this COVID-19 inspired lockdown.
The criminalization of vending and the subsequent demolition their vending sites is an abrogation by the state of its obligation to fulfill the constitutional National Objectives under Section 13 (to promote private initiatives aimed at self reliance), and Section 24 (the removal of all inhibitions that prevent the citizens of Zimbabwe from working or otherwise engaging in gainful economic endeavors)
In other countries such as India, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya to mention a few, the vending challenge was overcome amicably without the use of force. We have suggested before that the Harare City Council and indeed other local authorities from across the country prioritize the creation of enough vending stalls and as VISET we suggest the “Zoning” of streets, a method that worked in other countries.