BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/BRENNA MATENDERE
INFORMAL traders, who are currently unable to ply their trade on the capital’s pavements, have invaded open spaces around industrial areas, mainly in Graniteside, posing a COVID-19 health hazard as they flout lockdown regulations.
Since relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown in April, NewsDay has regularly witnessed informal traders, who are flocking to factories and wholesalers in the industrial area to purchase plastic buckets, blankets, plates and clothing items, among others, jostling to buy their wares without observing social distancing or wearing face masks.
Frustrated shop attendants’ efforts to enforce social distancing in the queues have failed to bear fruit.
Some enterprising vendors display their goods on open spaces to sell to those who are not keen on pushing and shoving in the meandering queues at the wholesalers.
The hordes of informal traders, despite the many roadblocks set up by security forces to enforce lockdown regulations, still find their way to the industrial areas.
Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme yesterday said the informal sector should adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.
“Our law enforcement section is working to ensure that the informal sector adheres to the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines,” Chideme said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration in March pledged $600 million to cushion one million vulnerable families over three months, but has only disbursed funds to 200 000 beneficiaries. The majority of Zimbabweans work in the informal sector.
Speaking to NewsDay on condition of anonymity, one vendor in Graniteside said she was forced to dice with death so that she could feed her family.
“I come this side to buy these items so that I can sell and make money to feed my family. I’m a single parent, so buying and selling helps me to feed my little children who cannot support me financially. I am also afraid of contracting the virus, but I cannot let my children starve. I’m trying by all means to wear my mask most of the time, especially when I’m in a crowded place,” she said.
Munashe Katsande from Mbare said he goes around selling hats and shoes to survive the harsh economic conditions.
“I think the pandemic is real and I’m also afraid of contracting the coronavirus, but I cannot sit at home without food and money. Selling is what I do for a living and my family needs to be looked after. If I stay at home, who will bring food to the table? I have never benefited from the food that the government gives to people, so I have to come here and look for money,” he
Mnangagwa on Tuesday imposed a dusk to dawn curfew and ordered all non-working sections of the population to stay at home.
He said only registered small to medium enterprises and food markets would be allowed to operate.
Despite this, unregistered SMEs and informal traders are going about their business. In Gweru, they are operating under closed doors.
Car wash operators, saloons, mobile phone accessories dealers, vendors and money changers all devised ways to beat the strict regulations imposed as they handpick clients from the streets and secretly take them to their premises to ward off security forces.
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