THE rising unemployment rate now estimated at over 85% has seen many people in urban centres resorting to selling wares on the streets for survival.
Bulawayo is one of the major centres that has witnessed the number of vendors on the streets ballooning in the past few years due to unprecedented company closures.
The rise in the number of vendors has seen the city streets getting dirtier and congestion has increased because people have set up shop at every street corner due to competition.
Authorities have responded by launching intermittent raids targeting the vendors, and cat-and-mouse games with the police have become a common sight on the streets.
Last week, members of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association (ZCIEA) had no kind words for the Bulawayo City Council and the police during a conference organised by Bulawayo Agenda as part of the Ideas Festival.
ZCIEA co-ordinator, Thabani Nare, said they were worried that the police and council confiscate vendors’ wares.
He said at times the informal traders were made to pay fines and said this was like double punishment for the poor vendors, who are trying to earn a living in a country with no jobs.
ZCIEA says the police raids have become too frequent, making it difficult for their members to conduct business.
There is no denying that it is the responsibility of the police and council officials to maintain order on the streets.
However, this has to be done in a very humane way that is informed by the economic situation the city finds itself in.
For example, the city council’s treatment of the vendors cannot be informed by archaic legislation that negates the obtaining economic situation on the ground.
The local authority cannot hound the vendors out of the streets without providing them with vending bays to conduct their business in an orderly manner.
Police officers also need to stop raiding vendors merely for bribes because their actions are not only inhumane, but they are illegal.