BY MOSES MATENGA
LEGISLATORS from across the political divide yesterday teamed up in condemning the government-sanctioned demolitions, describing them as an open war against citizens, particularly informal traders.
Debating the issue in Parliament yesterday, the MPs urged government to immediately halt the exercise and find other more humane ways of restoring sanity in cities and towns, instead of destroying the informal sector through demolition of vendors’ illegal structures.
The sentiments came as the High Court last week issued an order stopping the demolition of illegal structures established by informal traders in Chitungwiza and Harare.
The High Court ruling followed a court application by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of the residents.
The authorities came under fire for demolishing the structures without a court order as required by the law.
On Monday, Harare provincial development co-ordinator Tafadzwa Muguti said demolitions of all structures along road servitudes would resume after 30 days.
But yesterday, the legislators said it was not in doubt that the informal sector was now the backbone of the economy and the country’s major employer, hence the need to treat it with respect.
“The unfortunate part is that this government, in my view, appears to have declared some war against the informal sector,” said Dzivaresekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance).
“The message that government is sending to the informal sector and small businesses is that we do not care about you. You should suffer in poverty because if you do not do what we are telling you to do, we will fine you so much according to Statutory Instrument 127 of 2021.”
He said it was more painful that the demolished infrastructures were approved by the council.
“If you go to council, they will tell you that the process of the demolitions that are happening are being co-ordinated by the provincial development co-ordinator (Muguti).
“You then wonder whether government knows what is prevailing on the ground. When you know that your country is being supported by the informal sector but you go on to declare war on that informal sector, what sort of country are we building?” Mushoriwa asked.
“… You are actually destroying the Zimbabwean economy. When you give money ie. forex to people who want to go on holiday in Mauritius at the expense of informal business, then again, you do not intend to build this nation.
“I think this war against the informal sector should be brought to a halt so that we can move.
“We have entrepreneurs who want to help in terms of building this economy, but what we lack is enabling governance. Government does not seem to want to support it. They indicate right and yet they turn left. This level of policy inconsistency is not good for this country.”
Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna (Zanu PF) chipped in, saying: “The informal sector, if formalised, can grow the economy. The current advantage of the informal sector is that there is job creation, but the informalisation of any economy in any country does not give hope to tax and revenue generation by the government.
“It is my hope that the government, local authorities and the business sector of the nation can create a platform and pedestal for the informal sector to thrive, boom and grow to become a big tax or income generator for the government by being formal.”
Nduna added: “Countries such as China had a vibrant informal sector that grew in leaps and bounds in the Special Economic Zones to become the industrial hubs that they are today — just growing from the informal sector.
“I am alive to the fact that they are the backbone of the economy and, in particular in Chegutu West constituency after the demise or the closure of David Whitehead Textiles that used to employ more than 4 000 workers.”
He said there was need to empower the informal sector so that the country could grow its economy.
Luveve MP Stella Ndlovu (MDC-T) said the informal sector was thriving because of closure of companies and the situation was desperate for the ordinary people whose livelihoods government was destroying.
“Where I am from, what makes it to be an informal sector is that there is no employment in Bulawayo. During the old days, Bulawayo was well known for industries and a lot of factories. These factories are now closed and the youths are stranded and so they have gone into the informal sector,” she said.
“… we are seeing the vendors in the informal sector being chased away by the police officers. They are sometimes arrested and their goods get confiscated.”
Harare Metropolitan MP Lindani Moyo (MDC-T) said it was heart-breaking that government was ill-treating its own people.
“My heart is bleeding because women are the majority in the informal sector and this same informal sector is the one which is sustaining this economy, yet there is absolutely nothing to show in as far as their livelihoods are concerned,” she said.
Moyo said government should recognise the important contribution that the informal sector was making to the resuscitation of the ailing economy.
Chipinge West legislator Sibonile Nyamudeza (MDC-Alliance) said the informal sector was now the backbone of the economy.
“Right now, the economy is being sustained by the informal sector which constitutes three-quarters of the population,” she said.
“Women and youths are the ones who are working in this informal sector. Therefore, the informal sector must be supported and given enough resources so that they grow from informal, become big companies and employ many people.”
Nyamudeza urged government to support informal traders and create employment to not only grow the economy, but reduce poverty-related crime.
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