BY SILAS NKALA/NIZBERT MOYO
INFORMAL traders in Bulawayo have expressed concern that they are “being starved to death” due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, which has been extended by another two weeks.
National deputy chairperson of Street Wise Informal Traders Association (SWITA), Welcome Ncube yesterday said there was need for informal traders to be considered as essential services as the country had more than 85% unemployment, which means that most people survived through informal trade.
Last week, government extended a 30-day lockdown by another two weeks, which means that it will now end in mid-February.
The lockdown is meant to curtail the spread of the coronavirus after the numbers of those infected in Zimbabwe soared to more than 32 000.
“It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to convince our government that the informal sector is a major economic pillar of this country’s economy. If a sector of the economy is capable of sustaining livelihoods of millions of people, then how does it become non-essential?” Ncube said.
“SWITA and other informal traders consist of more than 85% of the country’s citizens that rely on vending for a living. Failure to consider them as essential services is tantamount to starving them to death.
“As SWITA, we appeal to our government to consider revisiting the lockdown conditions to include the informal traders as essential services because we are prepared to observe World Health Organisation COVID-19 rules and guidelines,” he said.
Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer, Dumisani Nkomo said: “This is lamentable and tragic because while the spread of the COVID-19 virus needs to be curbed through lockdown periods, this can only work if accompanied by social safety nets targeted at the poor and vulnerable. Almost 80% of the country’s population is either unemployed or informally employed, and this spells hunger and poverty for them,’’ Nkomo said.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe deputy president Trevor Masuku said: “We remain concerned that the service of religious leaders is not being considered essential and yet it assists people mentally and emotionally. Spiritual needs cannot be suspended even in the midst of a pandemic.”
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