Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Statement on the forcible removal of vendors

Government Not only Wrong But Hypocritical.

Issue Date: 2 June 2015

The Committee of the Peoples Charter condemns the recent announcement by local government minister Ignatius Chombo declaring a seven day ultimatum for all vendors to leave the central business districts of all cities and towns. The minister issued this statement with the endorsement and contribution of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a development that is not only inappropriate but also unnecessary in order to pursue a democratic solution to a perceived problem. 

In their responses, and correctly so, the Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation (ZISO) and the National Vendors Union Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) have described this undemocratic intent on the part of government action as tantamount to treating a symptom and not a cause.  

They further asserted that however one views the issue of vending in central business districts, bringing in JOC and the spectre of forcible removal, is not going to solve the economic challenges such as unemployment and endemic poverty that are faced by many Zimbabweans.

The CPC wholly agrees with the views of ZISO and NAVUZ and in solidarity also wishes to highlight the following:

The issue of informal trade is now an intrinsic reality of Zimbabwe’s political economy.  Wishing it away by threatening to forcibly move vendors from our cities and  towns using both the police and army is tragically reminiscent of the repressive tendencies of the colonial state. The latter sought to keep city/town centers not only as racial but also economic exclusion zones from the majority poor. 

It is also intended action that reflects the repressive tendencies of our current post independence government. It has retained the economic apparatus and framework of the colonial state in limiting the right of citizens to earn a decent living through elitist and neo-liberal economic policies that favour the politically connected rich at the expense of the majority poor. From economic blueprints such as the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1990s through to the present day ZimAsset, it is clear that government is directly responsible for the current and dire national economic state of affairs.

These policies have over the years led to massive private sector retrenchments, lack of social service delivery, unprecedented high costs of living, repression of trade unions and the introduction of an economic patronage system based on political affiliation.  Their end results have been the current situation in which thousands of our country’s citizens having no choice but to undertake informal economic activities while millions others resort to seeking greener pastures in the Diaspora.

For government, through JOC, to want to arbitrarily remove vendors from the  CBD is an exercise in not only political repression but crass hypocrisy.

The CPC is of the firm view that the City of Harare and other urban local authorities have not done enough to seek an amicable solution to the opportunities and challenges that come with the expansion of the informal sector within their cities.  Furthermore, central government, through the ministry of local government, by calling for forcible removal of vendors without a comprehensive  and people centered alternative plan  is demonstrating the extent to which it is not grounded in the realities confronting a majority of urban residents countrywide. 

It is for this reason that the CPC is convinced that government is absolutely wrong on seeking solutions in forcible removal of vendors. What is it that must be hidden about the lived realities of the people of Zimbabwe and from whom must it be hidden?

There are better solutions in engagement and dialogue, processes which the relevant associations of vendors and the informal sector have already agreed to. Businesses in the CBD must also agree that their lack of capacity to deliver and fill in the market gap that is now occupied by the informal sector are also reflective of larger economic challenges than mere occupation of street corners.

Above all else, local and central government are obliged not to act in a rash and arbitrary fashion. They must address economic challenges holistically and with an intention to address them as opposed to excluding the poor majority from their right to earn a living.  This includes democratic engagement in good faith with all residents, vendors unions, businesses and addressing key causes of the desperate poverty that has made it so necessary for citizens to hawk small goods on street pavements.

Information Department

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