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Zimbabwe's Vending Crisis Reaching Alarming Levels

The future looks bleak for vendors in most parts of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe after years of an economic collapse is now faced with a serious problem of hordes of struggling vendors estimated at 5,7 million who have invaded every little space in cities and towns to sell their wares.

For many; Zimbabwe is now a vendor nation. Government, fearing social unrest, has not moved in to address the growing vending crisis.

Vendors also claim to have support from First Lady, Grace Mugabe, who says police must not remove them as they are supporting their families.

Harare has seen an explosion of unregulated commerce in recent years due to high unemployment with over 80 percent of the country’s 13 million people unemployed although official statistics put it at least 10 percent.

To discuss this issue, Studio 7’s Blessing Zulu turned to national vendors union Zimbabwe National director, Samuel Wadzai, and founding leader of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) retailer, Gift Juawo.

Wadzai said vendors are trying to live an honest life.

But the big question the ailing nation is struggling with is what to do with the vendors? Members of parliament have demanded the immediate removal of illegal vendors who have flooded Harare's streets, saying they are a menace and threaten properly-registered retail shops.

The CZI retailer says vendors are depriving them of business yet they invested heavily into licence fees, taxes, employee and other costs in anticipation of a return on investment.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has vowed to track down all informal traders to recover what he said were the state's dues realized through the activities of the often unregulated economic sector.

It is estimated that the informal sector is generating an annual turnover of 7,4 billion. But the Zimbabwe Informal Sector`s Organization (ZISO) is urging Chinamasa to reconsider his proposed tax regime for the informal traders, and embark on extensive stakeholder consultations to come up with an effective and pro-poor tax mechanism.

ZISO says the presumptive tax of $300 quarterly is way beyond the reach of the informal sector players who seldom make enough to cover their most basic needs.