Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) is deeply saddened by the horrible, inhuman, and ruthless destruction of informal workers and vendors’ stalls along road servitude in Harare and Chitungwiza by the local authorities and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. As an organization that works with and represents informal economy workers across the country, ZCIEA sees this action as a silent form of harassment and torture of citizens who depend on informal economy work for survival. The rise of violence and harassment of informal workers and traders at their work is very disheartening in Zimbabwe. This is a total conflict of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on eradication of violence and harassment in the world of work, which Zimbabwe is party.
Destruction of their stalls translates to the destruction of their livelihoods and is a sure way of sinking them into abject poverty. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations condemns this deplorable act of animosity. Vendors are human too and above all, legitimate citizens of Zimbabwe who are working against all odds to make an honest living. Given the role the informal workers are playing in sustaining this economy, the demolition of their workplaces is an extreme measure. According to the 2019 labour force survey, the informal economy contributes 84% of the country’s total workforce in Zimbabwe and is dominated by women who are pulling through many families from hand to mouth on a dollar per day poverty lifestyle. It is a sign of running out of ideas when leadership continue to use the same style of brutal action on its citizens instead of protecting them
Authorities’ decisions that criminalize informal economy, prioritizing road servitude at the expense of citizens’ livelihoods is a symptom of colonialistic by-laws in an independent Zimbabwe. The Second Republic is speaking of inclusive development and dialogue. In this action, we miss that.
It is unfortunate that government officials speak from the luxury of employment and luxury offices and overlook the majority who have no jobs except vending and are living in abject poverty. If the law is criminalizing the livelihoods of citizens, it must be changed. In 1980, Zimbabwe has a population of around 7.4 Million, and in 2021, the population is around 15million whilst Local Authorities use the same outdated by-laws
The timing and approach are both harsh and wrong. Informal economy workers and traders are still suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and are struggling to find their footing back into business, instead, the government should support them through the provision of social safety nets.
The Authorities of Harare Metropolitan Province should prioritize the removal of garbage, fixing of the sewer system, provision of proper infrastructure for the Informal economy workers and traders, and provision of clean water to residents ahead of demolitions. Decongestion of Harare Metropolitan Province can be done in a modern way than this outdated strategy. The revenue should come out of the money they are collecting either daily or monthly from the vendors. The government should be cognizant of the fact that the revenue collected from vendors is helping a lot in the service delivery by local authorities whom they as the government is failing to adequately fund. The authorities should be reminded also that they should not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
Informal traders are also citizens who have families to feed. Their right to food, work, and life must be respected as they are equal citizens of Zimbabwe.
As an organization, we believe in a developmental dialogue. We believe in a Transformation of informal economy Activities into mainstream activities that cover market access and infrastructure, development of linkages between the informal economy and formal businesses, social protection, formalization, financial inclusion, and devolution.
We are aware that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare is working on this formalization strategy in consultation with stakeholders. This is the true developmental Agenda that builds Zimbabwe towards achieving 2030 targets and SDGs.
We urge the authorities to protect these innocent people and not treat them as criminals. We, therefore, call the authorities to STOP demolitions and pave way for consultative engagement which brings lasting solutions with Informal economy workers and traders.