The Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) funded Sizimele Consortium has in the past eight months donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to vendors in Bulawayo so as to cushion them against economic hardships and also to ensure compliance to COVID-19 regulations.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) Executive Director Michael Ndiweni said: “We are part of the Sizimele Consortium which is made up of a number of organisations. It is our initiative to assist vendors and traders with PPEs in Bulawayo and it has been going on for the past seven to eight months. We have been giving out sanitisers, hand washing water dispensers, masks and screening thermometers.
“We have distributed 1705 masks, 108 water dispenser buckets, 170 litres of paint, 23 thermometers and 915 litres of sanitisers to 20 markets in Bulawayo.
“Our priority is public markets particularly food and agricultural markets although we also support other markets such as those involved in clothing”, said Ndiweni.
Ndiweni said that the intervention by ZRBF Sizimele came as a result of the realization that most vendors were having challenges procuring materials such as sanitisers and thermometers, thereby affecting compliance to COVID-19 regulations.
“The support that is being given to traders is addressing the issue of the cost to divert their little incomes from what they sell under these difficult conditions towards purchasing some of these materials. This goes a long way in solving some of the problems that people have been facing in market places. It also ensures compliance with what the government requires.
“The only problem we have been observing from vendors is the cost of compliance. It was only in December when government fully opened the country’s ports of trade so people have been struggling to comply because of the simple fact that what they had, they had eaten with their families so they didn’t have money to spare towards buying some of these materials.
“This meant that they had to dig deeper into their pockets for them to meet their livelihood demands, balance and also to buying some of these materials. We then felt that we needed to cushion them from the shocks they suffered so that they could remain with some disposable income”, he said.
He added that while the Sizimele Consortium is comprised of some government ministries, there is still need for the relevant ministry to continuously engage government on ways of ensuring that vendors continue with their operations if another lockdown is to ensue.
“The Sizimele Consortium is supported by the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) which also has some government ministries as part of it, meaning that the government is involved to some extent. However, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Small to Medium Enterprises and Community Development can directly assist by continuously engaging the government at large to allow people to work.
“We would be very disappointed if another lockdown was going to ensue and having people not working so our plea is that the Ministry must continue talking to the government in its entirety to allow people to work and of course with our commitment that we are going to work tirelessly to ensure that people have access to materials to use in market places”, said Ndiweni.
He said that there had not been any cases of people who had been harassed by the authorities for failing to wear masks.
“We had some cases of people getting harassed but it was before the opening of the space, not necessarily on people failing to wear masks among other things but people who could not stay at home because they had to try and find food for their families by ways of selling. Those people were having running battles with the police who at some point were confiscating their goods because they would run and leave their goods. These are what I would call our documented cases but in terms of harassment for failure to wear masks we haven’t had any recorded cases”, said Ndiweni. He added that, “We also have our Market Bailiffs who are constantly moving around market places monitoring if our members or rather traders in market places are adhering to COVID-19 protocols such as wearing of masks, social distancing, washing of hands and also whether people are being screened at entry points in market places”.