Since the lockdown came into force, informal trading in Hwange has undergone significant changes. President Mnangagwa’s announcement that those in the informal sector who can fully abide by COVID-19 rules and regulations can resume operations was supposed to liberate informal traders. However, the majority of the traders have not benefited from the moratorium because they simply cannot fulfil the demands as per COVID-19 regulations due to a lack of finances and resources to implement them.
Due to their financial incapacity, most informal traders have retreated to their homes to carry out their business without having to deal with law enforcement agents.
Some traders in the Empumalanga area have built makeshift selling point structures where they sell food stuffs such as tomatoes, sugar and other basics. The operations at own premises are designed to keep the municipal and Zimbabwe Republic Police officers enforcing the regulations at bay.
Ellen Phiri, a vendor who used to operate at the shopping centre said she has now found peace by selling from her house which has spared her from raids by authorities.
“I can now heave a sigh of relief as I no longer need to be constantly looking over my shoulder to evade the authorities as was the case at the shopping centre.” said Phiri.
However, Phiri said while helping her avoid clashes with law enforcement, operating from home has brought her lesser returns.
“My turnover used to be three times as much. Now I must make do with very little sales and profits while selling from home. This is the price we must pay for avoiding the risk of arrest and a heavy fine but we don’t have a choice do we?” Phiri added.
Agrippa Sibanda, a barber said working from home is not a problem for him as his regular customers know where he resides and have his contacts.
“I might have lost a few customers but my regulars haven’t been affected by the shift as I am on their speed dial. They can either come to my place or call me to their homes for a haircut,” he said.
Elvis Tshuma said “sales volumes have gone down drastically” since he started operating from home. He implored government to relax the restrictions.
“The government has said we can operate, provided we meet the rules and regulations but the truth is we cannot fully meet the regulations because we are incapacitated. For me selling from home is not the same. I feel hamstrung in my business. I wish the government could ease our working conditions as the informal sector.”
Greater Hwange Residents Association Chair, Mr Fidelis Chima told Vendors Voice that since government is not offering any social safety nets, it has got to play ball and relax the current lockdown regulations to allow vendors to go about their business.
“Government should relax lockdown conditions as the government has no capacity to cushion vendors and other vulnerable groups in society,” he said.
Public Relations Officer for Hwange Local Board, Mr Dumisani Nsingo intimated that the local authority is geared to accommodate local vendors when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“We are in the process of turning Empumalanga bus terminus into a temporary vending site for hawkers or vendors. Our engineering department will put up vending bays taking into consideration issues to do with social distancing as recommended by COVID-19 protocols. We are also looking at revamping the ablution facilities located at the terminal as part of our efforts of enhancing health and sanitisation. We are also looking at completing vegetable market stalls at Chibondo and Empumalanga to enable vendors decent places to operate from,” said Nsingo.
Nsingo revealed that the local board has steered clear of issuing licences to vendors in keeping with lockdown restrictions.
“We haven’t been issuing licenses since last year owing to the fact that vending hasn’t been permissible during lockdown while on our own we are still to meet the requisite COVID-19 requirements in areas designated for vending,” he said.