Vendors: ‘We are tired of being called public nuisance.’

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

INFORMAL traders want authorities to stop harassing them as they want to earn an honest living.

Also known as vendors, the informal traders have for years been engaged in cat and mouse games with police and council security in the country’s urban areas but now want a stop to this.

“We are a result of bad decisions taken by government. We are the result of bad policies that have failed in other countries,” Lorraine Sibanda, president of Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZICEA) said.

Sibanda was speaking early this week at a Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) organised national dialogue economic series.

She added it was disheartening that vendors have been criminalised by a government that has consistently failed to provide jobs.

“Today we are wasting our time as Zimbabweans on a cause that we do not own. Only a few, the elite are benefitting from every process being done in the country.

“We are tired of being arrested and charged with public nuisance. Vendors are not criminals, because…we are merely a symptom of the bigger picture,” said Sibanda.

“We are a result of bad decisions taken by government. We are the result of bad policies that have failed in other countries, which are implemented on Zimbabweans to the detriment of future generations and stifling the development of the country.”

Zimbabwe’s two decades long economic and social crisis has turned most citizens into informal traders as the country continues to hemorrhage jobs due to de-industrialisation.

Sibanda appealed to the government to find better ways of dealing with informal traders than “stick their heads in the sand”.

“The government is in denial. It’s time government wake up to the reality in the country. They have killed the economy, there is no formal economy to speak off, no industry to speak of, that is why business is struggling,” the vendors leader said.

“The situation on the ground seems as if the business people are fighting the ordinary person yet it is government which is pushing the two in that corner.”

Sibanda added: “Do not criminalise us, wake up and smell the coffee government. You created the situation, you created the kind of the economy where one has to do anything to survive, rather than be formally employed.”