By NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO residents have reacted angrily to proposals by the local authority to hike fines for alleged illegal vending and flouting other by-laws governing the operations of informal traders.
The harsh economic climate has pushed many into vending to make ends meet as salaries continue to be eroded by inflation.
A new team of vendors mainly selling anything from clothes to imported alcohol brands from vehicles — not restricted to the central business district but even in high-density suburbs — has also emerged.
According to a leaked schedule of new fines for illegal vending and flouting the city’s hawkers and vendors bylaws, selling goods from an undesignated areas such as pavements now attracts $400, selling without a licence ($500) and pushing carts in the central business district ($300), among other new
“BCC must come up with realistic fines and measures considering that income levels for vendors and informal traders have drastically reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions that have curtailed trading,” said Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association co-ordinator Michael Ndiweni.
“BCC was supposed to engage associations on what measures can be employed to deal with some of these challenges that fines seek to address.
“The enforcement approach is not always sustainable because vendors and informal traders would always find ways to avoid arrest, in the process fuelling corruption.”
Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni yesterday said the new fines were at proposal stage and that they were “yet to be ratified by the relevant council committees”.
However, commentators were quick to urge the local authority to reverse plans to review fines governing informal trading in the face of the COVID-19-induced socio-economic crisis.
Effie Ncube, the co-ordinator of the National Consumer Rights Association said: “The fines are exorbitant, punitive, vindictive, unrealistic and insensitive to the suffering that people are going through in the hands of this government.
“This is targeting the poorest of the poor who earn a living through informal trading and is yet another burden on the poor by a government that is totally out of touch with reality.
COVID-19 restrictions have completely destroyed the livelihoods of the majority of informal traders and vendors.”