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Zimbabwe Vendors Face Red Tape, Delay Under New Rules

Informal traders have crowded Bulawayo police stations in recent days in an effort to comply with new registration requirements.But vendors say the laborious and consider the exercise of doubtful value as there's no indication when they'll be allocated stands.

New government regulations require all informal traders to register with the Ministry of Local Government. In Bulawayo, its offices are located at Mhlahlandela Complex. The next step requires aspiring traders to buy fingerprint forms before joining queues at a nearby police station to complete the procedure.

But the process is being delayed because most of the city's police stations lack either the necessary ink or receipt books. The shortages have resulted in applicants being sent from one police station to another.

Take Nketa resident Sheila, who's also a mother of two children. She said she paid the registration fee of 50-thousand dollars at Western Commonage Police Station in Mpopoma, after which she walked to the drill hall to have her fingerprints taken.

Despite being one of Bulawayo's biggest police stations, Western Commonage reportedly ran out of ink earlier this week, forcing anxious traders to buy their own.

While she was previously registered as a vegetable vendor, Sheila complained that she still lost her business in Operation Restore Order. She told Studio 7 that she has suspicions, feeling that the point of the new registration requirements is to raise money for government, as thousands of vendors will be expected to pay 50-thousands dollars each.

"I'm got no choice. I'm doing it but I'm not comfortable. I'm doing because it's a must. It seems like it's a force matter," said Sheila.

Other traders, like Meli Mpofu, question the need for police clearance. The 26-year-old described it as unnecessary, adding she has no idea whether this will ensure that she receives a stand.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a spokesman representing the Bulawayo upcoming traders association said his organization is mainly concerned because although provision is being made for re-registration, its members have no interim source of income.

Bulawayo town clerk Moffat Ndlovu agreed. He explained that the local authority's view is that preparations should have been made before traders were moved to new locations.

Mr. Ndlovu added the city council already had plans to move informal traders to three sites. The first is near Mckertan School along Third Avenue, while another is opposite Bhakta's stores. The clerk added that land adjacent to Amakhosi Theatre, on the way to north end, was demarcated as a vegetable wholesale market but the local authority is reportedly emptying Sidojiwe hostels (near the CSC complex) to create room for small industries.

The city employee further says the council will give priority, in terms of allocation, to traders who were already registered In terms of its by-laws.

Studio 7's Tafi Murinzi filed a report from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.