Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been directed to re-allocate new vending stalls in the city centre to licensed informal traders who previously operated from them.
Minister of Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni issued the directive after members of organisations representing informal traders in Bulawayo accused BCC of deliberately side-lining them in the re-allocation of new vending bays.
The traders alleged that council officials were being bribed by some unscrupulous vendors who sought to get vending stalls in the CBD, which is considered to be a prime business space.
Mr Dumisani Ncube, secretary-general of the Bulawayo Upcoming Traders Association (Buta) expressed concern over the proliferation of illegal vendors in the CBD and urged council and police to intensify raids.
Another informal trader, Ms Sibongile Nyathi of Pumula said there was less business in the residential areas resulting in people jostling to secure stalls in the CBD.
“Our request is that council should allocate CBD vending sites to licensed people who operated in that area before the lockdown regulations. For instance, if you are selling school uniforms in Pumula, you won’t be able to record meaningful business because there is no economic activity in those areas and you won’t be visible,” she said.
As part of a raft of measures in response to Covid-19, the council in April relocated vendors who operated vending stalls in the market area and permanently closed the popular weekend Khothama Market to bring order in the city beyond the lockdown period.
A total of 4 300 registered vendors in Bulawayo operated in the CBD before council relocated them.
The areas that had previously been used as vending sites have since been reopened for vehicular movement and these include 8th Avenue between Josiah Tongogara Street and Robert Mugabe Way, portions of 5th Avenue between Robert Mugabe Way and George Silundika Street, between George Silundika Street and Fife Street, between Fort Street and Herbert Chitepo Street, and between Herbert Chitepo Street and Lobengula Street.
Council has since embarked on a programme of re-allocating and re-designing of bays in the CBD and only 1 400 informal traders will be accommodated while the rest have been allocated vending bays in their residential areas.
Government has asked local authorities to involve the SMEs and vendors in identifying land for vending stalls.
Government has also availed funds to expedite the construction of new vending stalls across the country and grow new businesses during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister Nyoni said council should make sure that the new vending sites have running water, toilets and dustbins including enforcing the principle of social distancing.
“Council should make sure that vendors who, prior to the lockdown regulations, were operating in the central business district should be reallocated vending sites in their traditional places so that they don’t end up resorting to illegal vending activities. The Ministry wants to make sure that these small to medium entrepreneurs are groomed into large formal enterprises, which is why we are saying council should make sure that they return to their vending sites to enable us to trace them,” she said.
The Minister urged informal traders to be registered, saying her ministry will not allow traders to operate outside the confines of the law.
“My ministry has a mandate to work with the informal sector. Informal traders should be treated equally and fairly and we want people to operate from designated places. There should be running water in all designated vending sites, toilets and social distancing should be observed,” she said.
Minister Nyoni urged BCC to avail more factory shells and land where structures for trading purposes would be constructed.
Minister Nyoni said the threat of contracting Covid-19 was real and there was an urgent need to minimise the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
She said while the national lockdown was an important intervention measure. The Minister said the re-opening of the informal sector is being done in phases in terms of Statutory 136/20 and urged informal traders to be patient. — @mashnets.