Prince Sunduzani, Business Reporter
BULAWAYO informal traders have called on the city council to review its by-laws, which they say are outdated and infringe on their rights while protecting big businesses.
In an interview, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders’ Association Co-odinator, Mr Michael Ndiweni, said the local authority should align its bylaws with the new constitution, which provides for undisturbed participation in economic activities within the city.
He added that the changes that were made by the city council to the bylaws were not enough as they do not address the plight of thousands of informal traders.
“We feel that the by-laws are protecting big businesses at the expense of informal traders so they have to be reviewed so as to address the grievances of informal traders. We want city council to put in place provisions that do not protect big businesses at our expense,” said Mr Ndiweni.
“For example, they prohibit trade in some areas like in front of shops but you didn’t provide a place where informal traders can operate profitably from. For example, they are saying people should go and trade from Highlanders market but then there is no human market there, meaning people cannot make money. So all those issues should be looked at.”
Human rights lawyer, Mr Tanaka Muganyi, echoed the same sentiments, urging Government to step in to reverse colonial laws by aligning the bylaws with the new Constitution. He, however, said that this should not mean that there should be unregulated informal economic activity in the city.
“The council bylaws of 1976 are colonial and action should be taken to review them. The economy depends on informal traders unlike in the past because there are no jobs and people are stranded. The Government now has to frame the 1976 bylaw and conform it to the new Constitution. I certainly agree that it is an unconstitutional bylaw on the basis that now we have a new Constitution,” he said.
“The city council has to update its bylaws and align them with the new Constitution because they are infringing on the rights of the people. Government should also abolish these colonial laws and by laws as we are now independent.”
Bulawayo city council chamber secretary Mrs Sikhangele Zhou said BCC was open to dialogue and that the informal traders were free to approach the city to discuss a way forward on areas of concern.
She said the city council revised its bylaws two years back but if the informal traders feel there is more that needs to be done, they can take it up with the local authority. She, however, said the city council was operating within its rights to regulate informal trading activities in order to maintain sanity in the city.
“The council does not affect any economic activity but regulates how anyone conducts the activities. Whether formal or informal business, there must be some form of regulation. A planning authority’s role to plan the city has not been taken away, so we must continue to plan and regulate so that the right of others doesn’t affect the right of other people as well,” she said.
“The city is for everyone and the regulatory authority’s role is to balance everyone’s interests. We have engaged the vendors associations and said if there is a particular provision that they feel needs to be relooked at, we’re happy to listen to them, they can make suggestions,” said Mrs Zhou.