Photo: Vendors are being pushed into formal vending sites. The new 4th Street vendors’ market is a promising example – affording tenants amenities such as lock-up storage and rain protection.
Vending is still rife in Harare’s CBD despite council efforts to rid the city of traders who have occupied any available pavement space to sell their wares.
Since July, law enforcement authorities have been confiscating and destroying vendors’ goods in an effort to remove them from the streets in line with a government directive issued in June. Last month, the clampdown on vendors saw violent clashes erupting between council police and traders along First Street and on Nelson Mandela Ave near Harvest House, with 15 arrests made.
In spite of this, vendors continue to resist moving out of the CBD to council designated sites citing lack of business at the new sites. Chipo Mudzingwa (27) (name changed) who trades along Julius Nyerere Way revealed that she once was part of the relocation exercise but abandoned it after experiencing a drastic reduction in her income.
“I relocated in June at the beginning of the vendor registration program to the Seke Road market but, I had to come back into the CBD because there are no customers there. I used to get $15 every day, but things changed at the Seke Road market where I struggled to earn even my bus fare,” said Mudzingwa.
City of Harare introduced four new trading sites in June to accommodate vendors that were being moved from illegal vending points in the CBD. These new vending spaces are namely Holding Bay at the corner of Coventry Road and Rotten Row, the open space at the corner of Cripps Road and Seke Road, Luna Park ground at the City Sports Centre, and Tsiga Open Space in Mbare.
“It is better for me to face the municipal police who are now constantly carrying out raids than going to the designated market where there are no sales. I have my registration card and I might go back to the market when there are customers,” says Mudzingwa.
The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) met with the Deputy Mayor of Harare last month over the heightened clampdown on vendors and their clashes with municipal authorities.
After this meeting, they released this statement, “VISET does not condone violence, but neither does it condone the on-going heartless trampling on vendors’ livelihoods by the municipal police officers. While vendors are generally peaceful citizens who are desperately trying to eke out a living in these harsh economic circumstances, their attempts to defend their livelihoods may end up in unfortunate circumstances.”
However, other vendors’ organisations such as the Harare Informal Traders Association, which is an umbrella body of various vendors’ organisations, alleged that relocated vendors were happy with the new sites and said that ‘genuine’ vendors who are still operating illegally in the CBD should move to the council allocated sites.
“Vendors who are still operating illegally and fighting authorities in town are obviously against the law and we believe there is a political motive behind that,” said Arthur Muromba the organisation’s vice-president.
Michael Chideme, the city’s principal communications officer, explained that council was satisfied with the progress made in relocating vendors and said that council will deal with vendors who carry on trading at undesignated sites.
“We registered close to 10,000 vendors under the registration exercise. We are now going ahead with the provision of infrastructure because we have realised that with more people coming out of employment, they are bound to begin vending. So our markets need to be up and running to cater for the growing number of informal traders,” said Chideme.
Chideme also said that registered traders such as Mudzingwa who continue trading at undesignated sites in the CBD are at risk of being de-registered from the council register.