Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Ndeipi Msika – Zimbabwe’s vendors get information

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The formal sector of Zimbabwe is struggling to revive. Many people are surviving through informal and largely illegal means. Vending is an activity that has kept poor families alive and their children in school. Despite this important contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of the Zimbabwean, vending has always been a risky business.

On Friday 28 May 2010, Kubatana.net launched a vendor-wrapping sheet called “Ndeipi Msika“. The aim of this paper is to have the vendor community made aware of social issues that affect them, their relatives and friends. The majority of vendors are women; it is therefore no accident that the first wrapper contains significant coverage of women issues.

Vendors took advantage of the opportunity of meeting us to air pertinent issues, which they want addressed by authorities.

The hottest issue was the affordability, availability and accessibility of vendor licenses. The current annual charge for licenses is about US$150. Vendors complain that this amount is too much for them to afford given that their products give them a turnover of less than US$20 on a good day.

One vendor suggested that a system be introduced where vendors pay for their licenses on a monthly basis rather than the hefty once off payment. She further complained that the geographical coverage of the licenses is too small for a viable vending business.  She suggested that there be introduced a vendor license which covers the whole country so that vendors can easily follow the geographical demand of the goods that they offer.

Other vendors complained about shop managers who chase them away from places where they have been vending for the past 14 years or more. The vendor described the managers as overzealous people who forget that whenever thieves’ loot from their shops, vendors always help by chasing and catching the shoplifters. She added that the vendors often cover the gap when shops run out of stock of a given commodity, and thus the shopping centre does not loose its customers to other shopping centres. She concluded by reminding the shop managers that in business even competitors need each other.

Vendors also complained about the police behaviour. There is the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on the one hand, and the Municipality police on the other. Of the two, licensed vendors prefer to deal with the municipality police whom they think understand them. They do not really understand the role of the ZRP in the vending business. They blame the ZRP for arresting, tormenting and demanding kickbacks. This, they said, puts unnecessary pressure on their business, which generally does not have a lot of profit.

The vendor wrapper was welcomed by a lot of vendors and they expressed hope that the wrapper will include information on their issues.

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