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Gweru informal traders’ livelihoods mostly affected by Covid-19

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By Martin Mawaya
To most of the informal traders in Gweru, the demolition of their trading market at Kudzanayi bus terminus comes as a surprise as none of the traders would think that the government would throw them into deep poverty. These vendors used to wake up as early as 2am to go and order their products from Kombayi fresh markets. Although earning a living, but they have been enduring hell on earth.

Recently the City of Gweru engaged the two construction companies namely Bentach Resources from Harare and Casas Properties Investments from Bulawayo to construct the vending marts because they are financial incapacitated. However, the project is moving at a slow pace leaving the informal traders guessing on when to be allocated new vending markets and work for their families. The two companies will renovate the Kudzanai Bus Terminus, Kombayi fresh market, the Wimpy market and Mtapa market.

The government seems to have no immediate solution to alleviate the informal traders from the Covid-19 forced abject poverty. Whilst the 9th cabinet resolution seems to be the government strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus as well as an opportunity for local authority to construct smart city vending structures. It failed to address the issue of the livelihoods of the vendors and women were the most traumatized by the demolitions of their marketing sheds as they fend for their families through vending.

The Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) situation report showed that the majority of Zimbabweans rely on the informal sector for their livelihoods and the sector demographics indicate that women constitute at least 60% of the informal sector in Zimbabwe. WCOZ said “the lockdown on the informal sector is exacerbating a direct disproportionate negative impact on women, as women-led households continue to lose income, crippling women’s livelihoods and undermining their capacity to maintain high levels of resilience”.

WCOZ reported that the government has not swiftly demonstrated much to address the issue of lost livelihoods especially in the context of women, which they unequivocally stated as ‘unfair’ saying “Women are not magicians”.
WCOZ added that there are inconsistences and disregard of covid-19 induced lockdown regulations.

“We continue to witness inconsistencies in policy and practice regarding essential services, public gatherings and inter-city travels. Rampant reports from our networks, communities, the public press and social media indicate ongoing socio-economic activities wherein there is continuing disdain and non-compliance with lockdown measures, without any legal repercussions.

“This has been noted particularly where prominent figures are travelling to the remote and rural areas where they are gathering and interacting with the locals. We therefore, call upon Government to lead in compliance to the lockdown regulations,” the report reads.
For Mildred Dube from Mtapa, Covid-19 pandemic has put her family lives in deep poverty.

“I am very disturbed by the current situation because at the moment I don’t have a place to sell my products, as the local authority has demolished our vending marts in town saying they want to contain the spread of coronavirus. At list they should allow us to sell our goods at our homes but the Covid-19 regulations announced by the President do not allow us to do so. The situation is hostile to some of us because our sources of income have been affected. I have been sending my two kids to school as well as looking after my three brother’s orphans from vending income,” said Dube.

She said the situation is so pathetic. “Our lives are in danger of poverty and coronavirus because we cannot just stay home without food but we end up risking our lives to the pandemic to feed our families. I have started moving around the location selling my products but this is also said to be posing danger of spreading coronavirus disease but what can we do, we are suffering. We have been promised to receive safety nets from government but it seems nothing is materializing,” she said.

Gweru City Council Mayor Councilor Josiah Makombe said he is aware that the livelihoods of vendors in Gweru has been affected by the removal of the trading markets from the CBD and promised that the council will do all it takes to speed up the construction of Mtapa trading market.
Till then, the livelihoods of the informal traders remains in a deplorable state as they are now failing to make ends meet.# The Sun

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