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Vendors defy Bulawayo council directive

by Staff reporter
20 Feb 2024 at 05:03hrs | Views
IT was business as usual yesterday for vendors operating along 5th Avenue in the City Centre, as they openly defied a Bulawayo City Council directive to vacate the street by Sunday to pave the way for renovations.

Last Friday, the council issued a notice directing vendors to vacate the area or risk being prosecuted.

A Chronicle News crew visited the area and observed that vendors were operating normally, with no signs of any enforcement by authorities.

Vendors swamped the streets as usual and were seen displaying their wares along the road, showing clear signs of being undeterred by the council's warning.

It was a normal day for Mr Thembani Dube who has been operating along the avenue for the past five years, as he set up his stall to display his wares for sale.

He said he will comply with the directive only when the local authority allocates them alternative space.

"We will not budge until they give us a temporary place to operate. As it is, they didn't pitch up in the morning maybe because they knew they would face heavy resistance," said Mr Dube.

Other vendors accused the council of setting up stringent operational measures in order to get rid of them.

"Some of us are single mothers and have no other way to make ends meet. This whole thing of relocating us to Egodini is just a fallacy.

This is just a money making venture for them at the expense of the citizens," said a female vendor.

"There is no business traffic that side and the space offered is way too small for the fees required for us to operate there. We have no option and we will just have to comply with them since they are the law."

For others, the move to relocate them to Egodini and other designated places is a welcome exercise, as players are tired of paying ridiculous rentals to space barons without realising any profits from sales.

"The fees are too high but there is no option, we will just have to swallow the pill. In as much as there is resistance to move, eventually people will adhere to the law. What we request from the council is that they reduce the US$90 fee," said Mrs Thandiwe Gwebu who has moved to the upgraded terminus.

"This is a beautiful place and we hope to see it flourish as we also hope to do so."

She said she was happy that she is now operating legally and is not constantly looking over her shoulder for municipal police.

Mrs Zhuwana Ncube said she recently migrated from Unity Village Flea market as the rent is exorbitant because owners of stands are in a habit of sub-letting.

"It is a good move by the council to create stands that we can pay for directly. At least now I can operate from a place I call my own. However, the rentals are slightly high and I wish they could cut this down a bit, especially now that we are just beginning operations.

"There is less traffic here, especially for us who sell clothes," said Mrs Ncube.

Mrs Sinikiwe Ndebele said she was worried about the influx of hawkers at Egodini who operate without licenses.

"The security here is lax. We pay a lot of money for them to enforce order yet they let hawkers in who then sell to commuters without paying a single cent. It then becomes unfair to us who pay and are forced to watch them make money while we cannot do anything to reprimand them. If this is what we are paying for then its bad," said Mrs Ndebele.

The traders also urged council to improve on the lighting system as well to complement the security at the rank to protect registered players.

Mr Tendai Charuka, the patron for Vendors 4ED said traders were ready to comply with the directive hence they delayed in setting up their stands yesterday morning as they waited for communication from council.

"Most of them complied and wanted to know how they would be operating away from their usual place. They only set up after 9am as the council did not show up to engage them," said Mr Charuka.

Council spokesperson, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, was not reachable for comment.

The Bulawayo City Council is on a mission to decongest the city and restore order. Last week the local authority in partnership with the police launched an operation targeting kombis and pirate taxis operating at undesignated routes within the City Centre.

In its plans to restore order BCC in partnership with Terracotta Private Limited, re-opened Egodini taxi rank on February 5 for operations. The taxi rank has the capacity to accommodate kombis and vendors.

After consultations with informal traders, council decided to open Fifth Avenue and some sections of Second Avenue for vending, subject to the renovation of the places.

This meant that the council will temporarily close the lane to make way for the construction of vending bays.

"All traders and vending activities along Fifth Avenue are requested to vacate the road to allow the implementation of the Council resolution of the 7th of February 2024 no later than Sunday, 18 February 2024," said council.

"Failure to comply will lead to enforcement. This is to accommodate cleaning of the area, demarcation of bays, and construction of safe working spaces and allocation of vending bays in the usual manner," read a statement issued by BCC last Friday.

According to council, Fifth Avenue has the capacity to accommodate 500 trading bays.

"Meetings have been held by the city and members of the Bulawayo Informal Sector Working Group for the implementation of the resolution… members and leaders of the various associations were requested to inform their members that a portion of Fifth Avenue will be temporarily closed to accommodate vending bays.

Roadshows and public announcements are also being carried out to engage the informal sector," read the statement.

Informal traders are required to have a valid vendor's license before they start operating in the City Centre. The license fees is pegged at US$23 per year and monthly rentals of $11, 50 per month.

Those operating outside the City Centre are expected to pay US$11, 50 annually while paying US$5, 75 monthly rentals.

Source - The Chronicle