By Mashudu Netsianda
Illegal street vendors who disappeared soon after President Mnangagwa first announced the national lockdown on March 30, are back on the streets and other illegal vending sites capitalising on Government’s decision to downgrade the Covid-19 lockdown to level two.
The partial lockdown has resulted in a slight return to normal day-to-day life in the city’s central business district (CBD).
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited the city’s Western suburbs where vendors operating in newly designated vending sites and paying rentals to the Bulawayo City Council expressed concern over illegal vending activities.
As part of a raft of measures in response to Covid-19, the council last month relocated vendors who operated vending stalls in the area and permanently closed the popular weekend Khothama Market to bring order in the city beyond the lockdown period.
Bulawayo has a total of 144 vending sites with a capacity of 15 353 vending bays located in the city’s 29 wards.
Council identified the initial six bulk delivery sites for fresh produce, which are ready to receive deliveries. These are Emganwini Mupedzanhamo, Tshabalala Market, Pumula Old Market, Magwegwe North
Market, Cowdray Park Terminus Market and New Magwegwe Market.
A Chronicle news crew noticed that vending stalls at Mupedzanhamo Flea Market in Emganwini were designed in such a way that the principle of social distancing is maintained by vendors.
Mupedzanhamo Flea Market is one of the new vending sites identified by council to accommodate more than 600 informal vendors who were affected by the closure of the 5th Avenue market place in the city centre.
Ms Elaine Ndlovu who operates at Mupedzanhamo Flea Market in Emganwini said they are paying $300 or US$10 per month for operating at the market.
She said they were losing business to illegal vendors.
“Our main worry is that we occupied these new vending sites and paying rentals, but those operating outside the designated site are not paying anything and we are losing business to them.
“In as much as we love our new vending sites, we feel it’s not fair for illegal vendors, especially those selling from their cars to continue operating and making money yet our wares are rotting in the stalls,” said Ms Ndlovu.
“Due to the stiff competition from illegal vendors, we feel it is going to be a mammoth task for some of us to raise council rentals come monthend since there is no business. BCC should address the issue of illegal vendors.”
Another vendor operating at the same vending site, Ms Aletta Sibanda echoed Ms Ndlovu’s sentiments, saying BCC is not doing enough to address the issue of illegal vending activities.
Ms Thelma Chokufa, a widow said she opted to continue operating at an undesignated vending site in Nketa 6 because she could not afford to pay monthly rentals to BCC.
“I am a mother of two and my husband died a few years ago leaving me with the sole responsibility of fending for my two minor children. Council is saying we should move to designated vending sites where we are supposed to pay $300 monthly rentals yet business is very low and that is why I decided to remain operating illegally,” she said.
Ms Chokufa, who sells eggs and airtime, said she was struggling to raise money for rent, food and school fees.
The Chronicle news crew also took to the streets of Bulawayo’s CBD and saw mobile street vendors selling their wares such as fruits, confectionary, soft drinks and airtime.
Areas in the city that had previously been used as vending sites, have since been reopened for vehicular movement and these include 8th Avenue between Josiah Tongogara Street and Robert Mugabe Way, the portion of 5th Avenue between Robert Mugabe Way and George Silundika Street, the portion of 5th Avenue between George Silundika Street and Fife Street, the portion of 5th Avenue between Fort Street and Herbert Chitepo Street and the portion of 5th Avenue between Herbert Chitepo Street and Lobengula Street.
Mr Mgcini Nsini of Cowdray Park suburb said despite cat-and-mouse games with municipality police, he had no other option but to return to the street as it was the only way of feeding his family.
“I have a responsibility to look after my family as a sole breadwinner. If I don’t sell airtime and confectionary in the streets, there is no income and that means my family will starve. I only started today after a month due to the lockdown,” he said.
Mr Nsini, a father of two, said he has been surviving on a few savings made before the lockdown. The Chronicle