by Constance Chitombo
Members of the informal sector whose hopes of survival are deeply stuck on their daily earnings have been severely affected by the lockdown restrictions. The uncertain nature of the lockdown has been characterized by the shocking scenes that vendors have witnessed so far. The lockdown has locked up their means of survival as 80 % of the people depend on hand to the mouth where they make a paltry 1-2USD profit a day.
In an interview with the Secretary-General for Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) Wisborn Malaya said, in as much as we seek to prevent the spread of the virus, the lockdown effects are proving to be more harmful than the virus itself to the informal traders. “Vendors are very much affected by the impacts of the lockdown. Around 80% of them are living from hand to mouth. They have an average family dependency ratio of 8 who need food every day, children require school fees, most of them need rentals, electricity and water bills,” he said.
Mr. Malaya further said if people cannot access basic needs such as food the lockdown will eventually become a killer to the hand to mouth livelihoods. “We must build on more result-based prevention measures such as social distancing, spraying all public spaces, and provision of health packs to frontline informal traders. This should include protective clothing. Local authorities can set up satellite markets to reduce traffic in market places, “he said. The persistent nature of pandemic has left the nation in a worrisome state and this leaves a possibility of an extension of the lockdown that can further limit the chances of vendors getting back to work.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many in boredom as its casualty rate is disturbing and the measures to stop this virus are yet to be known but many countries have resorted to national lockdown. Mr. Malaya further lamented the extreme demolitions of all informal traders structures by local authorities across the country which he said has gone far worse than Operation Murambatsvina of 2005. He said it is still sad that the government still uses outdated approaches to address disasters by always criminalizing informal workers and their workspaces yet they are the current major contributor of the 2% tax in the country.
More engagement needs to be done to address these unwisely informed actions, said Mr. Malaya. He, however, appreciated the efforts by other local authorities who have engaged informal traders in their intended action on the good spirit of consultation and dialogue. He Encourages as many authorities to emulate the same towards developing our own country. The informal economy is a key player in the country. That must be respected and appreciated.