BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO informal traders on Monday besieged council offices to register their anger over plans to double vending licence fees, saying they were already struggling to pay the current levies.
The decision to increase the fees is likely to see vendors pass on the costs to consumers, who already bear the brunt of the rising cost of goods and services.
If approved, vendors will pay ZWL$28 monthly in licence fees up from ZWL$13,50, while flower and curio vendors will pay ZWL$28 up from ZWL$15.
Percy Mcijo, Street Wise Informal Traders Association director, said instead of increasing the current rates, council should explore other avenues of generating revenue as well as adopting austerity measures.
“There is a lot of money out there which is not being collected. Council should regularise other vendors outside the city centre and collect money from them.
The ward retention funds should also take care of some of the council services,” he said.
Effie Ncube, the National Consumer Rights Association advocacy and campaign manager, urged the council to adopt austerity measures in the face of economic challenges in the country.
“In terms of austerity measures, residents want to know what council is doing to cut costs. Council should suspend the funding of all non-essential services until the economy has improved. Increasing rates under the current situation is akin to creating a vicious cycle which will eventually lead to instability,” Ncube said.
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association official Lewis Jones urged council to improve its service delivery first before increasing rates.
“As vendors, we are not happy with the services which we are getting from council. Some of our vending areas do not have ablutions facilities,” Jones noted.
In a position paper, the Bulawayo Vendors Trust (BVT) said the proposed increase would not be fair if the council is not willing to reduce its own costs.
“The increase is too high considering that the consumers’ salaries have not been increased to adjust to the price increases. Stakeholders suggested that council should increase vending licenses or bays by only 15%,” the BVT noted.
Council finance director Kimpton Ndimande told the vendors’ representatives that the increment had been necessitated by the lack of foreign currency and the high price of fuel, water chemicals and goods that have been pegged at parallel market exchange rates.