As we look back in the past five months, we see a trail of challenges that have been faced by vendors and informal traders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have recorded cases of rights violations; we continue to implore authorities to recognize the informal economy and decriminalise informal economy workers as their rights are guaranteed in Section 24 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The closure of markets in March 2020 also meant that a large number of families dependent on informal trading lost their means of survival. A number of traders have not been able to do their businesses, only now when the government partially opened the markets but also it was curtailed by the introduction of the dusk to dawn curfew, its extension further meant that vendors and informal traders continue to have limited hours to do their work as they have to rush to transport queues in order to beat the curfew deadline.
We are also saddened by the failure of government to fulfil its pledge of providing a cushioning fund to vendors and informal traders. Our members have been made to obtain One Money sim cards at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, but up to date nothing has materialised. We feel that it is unfair to give traders false hope.
As an organisation we have not folded our hands, we have initiated processes and have come up with initiatives to help traders cope and survive under the ‘new normal’. For example, we have come up with ideas for vendors to start producing goods like food products, garments and detergents and we have made them work in groups. We made efforts to add value and also help them market their products through online marketing.
We have written to the Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage lobbying them to re-open borders because it our firm belief that not all of Informal Cross Border Traders will be absorbed in our new ideas as some will still need to go and look for raw materials for producing goods. Therefore it is in our view that the opening of borders must be done urgently but under a strict control that ensures observation of the WHO recommended protocols.
Moving ahead, we are into a new project that is directly responding to the impact of COVID-19 titled Market Aggregation -COVID19 Vendors Response and Market Access Project (CVR- MAP) where we are recruiting market bailiffs to educate vendors and informal traders on the importance of combating the spread of the virus. We are deploying market bailiffs to market places to educate other traders, monitor and observe if traders and customers are maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. The project will also be linking traders in this difficult time to market within each other through Market Aggregation, so we are trying to bring them together by introducing a platform where they can sell together and market their goods as traders.
As an organisation we look forward to continue supporting traders in the ways we think will reduce COVID-19 and help them sustain their livelihoods. We thank our partners who have stood with us in this difficult period supporting informal economy workers who are the hardest hit by COVID-19 induced lockdowns. #kickoutcorona #khahlelalicorona.