ZIMBABWE: Surviving COVID-19 in Harare has been difficult since the beginning. The businesses are running as usual in Mbare, as many residents are into vending. Meanwhile, vendors from most parts of the city are visiting Mbare Musika to hoard staff. Mbare is one of the biggest high-density suburbs and a marketplace in Zimbabwe. Social distancing has become an ignored norm over there as people overcrowd the streets almost every day.
A need to cushion informal traders
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation, Executive Samuel Wadzai said that the government should quickly assist informal traders to ensure the effectiveness of lockdown.
“People don’t want to violate lockdown regulations intentionally, but they are trying to survive as no cushions disbursed to assist them. We are calling upon authorities and development partners to come in and assist informal traders who are finding it difficult to survive this lockdown,” he said.
He also said the assistance towards the informal traders will facilitate the success of lockdown. The country has been under lockdown Level 4 since January 5. The lockdown was supposed to end on February 5 but it was extended to mid-February.
Plead for the framework that co-exists with COVID-19
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Secretary-General Wisborn Malaya called for the government to set a co-existing framework towards the informal sector.
“We have also seen as many of vendors now ignoring the lockdown and continuing to trade which is a high risk for the spread of COVID-19 for not properly addressed. We plead with the government to provide food or cash transfers to people so that we reduce the risk of their flooding the streets again for now.”
“We also request the government to revisit the approach to completely lock informal traders and set up a co-existing framework because COVID-19 is not disappearing overnight at the same time people cannot be locked down for life, they need to earn a living”, he added.
Informal traders are enduring the agony of engaging in running battles with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) which pose a dilemma to choose between staying at home adhering to COVID-19 regulations while hungry or fending for the family. In some areas, police used tear gases on the vendors.
A call to unite
However, Malaya said that there are possible measures that should be put in place to promote health and safety for all in this COVID-19 era.
“The issue of continuing to do awareness-raising to communities and at workplaces is key for everyone to participate in the fight against COVID-19. Local authorities and ZRP in partnership with us associations should have a specific program across the country to keep raising awareness on social distancing, masking up, washing of hands, and avoiding crowded places,” he added.
Regardless of the ban to operate, private transport operations are playing a major role to ferry informal traders like vendors since public transport has strict rules.
Due to the scarcity of public transport, a 12 seated commuter omnibus carries more than its capacity even after the government has set COVID-19 regulations which advises maintaining one-meter social distance.