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Life Goes on For 'Traumatized' Zimbabwe Vendors

  • Michael Kariati

FILE: Zimbabwean vendors hold banners urging the government to stop their forced removals from the street during a demonstration in Harare, Wednesday, June, 24, 2015. Hundreds of vendors took to the streets of Harare demonstrating against an impending eviction from the streets, saying they will not move despite a Friday deadline to do so. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

FILE: Zimbabwean vendors hold banners urging the government to stop their forced removals from the street during a demonstration in Harare, Wednesday, June, 24, 2015. Hundreds of vendors took to the streets of Harare demonstrating against an impending eviction from the streets, saying they will not move despite a Friday deadline to do so. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Street vendors in Zimbabwe are in trouble as local authorities continue to push them off the streets with no solution in sight on how the government intends to turn the fastest growing sector in the country into a viable tax-contributing sector.

But many of the vendors who spoke with Studio 7 say they hope one day the vendors will contribute to the economy and help their country out of its current financial challenges.

These are the sounds that hit the ear whenever one moves around some places in towns or cities around Zimbabwe.

It is estimated that 90 percent of the people in Zimbabwe are surviving on vending while the remaining 10% (700,000) is formally employed, according to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

In the past, women constituted the majority of street vendors with a small percentage of men being Mozambican nationals who have since returned back home as their economy has vastly improved.

The situation has since changed as men are now equally represented on the streets where they are either selling vegetables or other wares.

Most of them have a different story to tell about the vending business.

Although the common issue is that there are no jobs on the market, there are other factors which have forced them into this sector.

EDUCATED VENDORS

Only a few of them did Ordinary Level studies with most of them having gone up to Advanced Level while others have university degrees and diplomas from top colleges.

What the vendors are craving for is survival in these harsh economic times where thousands of people, including civil servants, continue to lose jobs and earnings on a daily basis.

Thirty-three year old Rhoda Machingauta is a single woman with two children who says vending has helped her a lot in her life.

The secretary general of the National Education Union of Zimbabwe, Mathias Guchutu, believes that the government is lucky that Zimbabweans by their nature are peaceful people, otherwise by now there would have been chaos in the country.

The vendors say the small pickings from selling tomatoes, airtime, or second-hand clothes, is enough for them to at least put something on the table for the family or send children to council schools which are cheaper.

Zebediah Daka, who completed Advanced Level studies, says he is making more money on the streets than what is being earned by those going to work full-time getting at least $380 per month.

But the vendors also carry a dream to help the country get out of the situation it finds itself in today.

Muchena says he is not happy with making payments to the Harare City Council.

He prefers a minimal tax payment to the government to help them pay off their employees.

Muchena says the vendors should be relocated to better designated selling points where the tax payment system could either be on daily or monthly basis depending on the agreement between the government and the vendors’ representatives.

DAILY PAYMENTS

At the moment, vendors pay a minimum of $1.50 a day to city authorities to sell their wares.

Tinotenda Mukungate, who vends at the Copacabana Taxi Rank, is of the opinion that the City Councils are not providing the services for which they are being paid for considering the thousands of vendors who are paying on a daily basis.

He also thinks assisting the government is better than throwing his money at the city fathers.

Guchutu says there is need for the government to take advantage of the vendor situation and use it to build a model where like Tanzania and Ethiopia example, vendors are well-organized who contribute to the national fiscus with their operations linked directly to the taxing offices who cannot be cheated.

He says the term vendor should not be demeaned, adding vendors should not be victimized.

He adds that the government should sit down with the vendors and find a way on how they can best benefit from the fastest growing industry in the country.

The education guru points out on how some economic powerhouses like China have built a vibrant industry out of vending.

But the vendors themselves say this is not possible in Zimbabwe as long as they continue operating from the new premises they have been relocated to.

The premises, they claim, are far away from the buying public.

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