BY MOSES MATENGA
VENDORS yesterday described 2021 as a tough year as many of them faced numerous challenges that include harassment by the police, who in most cases solicited for bribes.
Speaking ahead of today’s commemoration of the International Street Vendors’ day, the Vendors Initiative for Socio Economic Transformation (Viset) said vendors were under siege in Zimbabwe with authorities descending on them heavily.
November 14 is the International Vendors’ Day and has been commemorated every year since 2012.
“In Zimbabwe, this year’s commemorations are taking place at the backdrop of the declaration of war on vendor’s livelihoods by the authorities, characteristic of their arrests, confiscation of goods, detentions, prosecutions, and assaults which have decimated the vendors’ capacities to trade profitably, and has taken a toll on their livelihoods and those of their families,” Viset said in a statement.
Viset said vendors have been subjected to all sorts of harassment including sexual advances by municipal police.
“Some of our female colleagues reported sexual harassment and abuse wherein they had to provide sexual favours in return for their confiscated goods or favourable designated vending sites,” it said.
“There was wanton destruction of property by local authorities and central government with promises of reconstruction and decentralisation, with little to back the multiple promises on the ground.”
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“Street vending has been seen as a nuisance by many local municipalities and their right to earn decent livelihoods is always under threat by unfavourable by-laws and municipal regulations.
“The year 2021 has been an exceptionally hard year for street vendors. It was a year when the government declared war on the vending enterprise through directives by municipalities that all vendors be removed from the central business districts of major towns and cities.
“We saw municipal and Zimbabwe Republic Police using force and arresting thousands of vendors as a response to the directive.
“More than 4500 of our members reported various forms of human rights abuses.
“Arrests, imprisonment, and prosecution of hundreds of street vendors also characterized the year. Our goods were confiscated and some of us were assaulted.”
Viset said the government must open up space for dialogue with its membership to deal with issues affecting them.