By Mashudu Netsianda
Flea market traders in Bulawayo have resumed business under a new normal entailing adherence to stipulate Covid-19 health guidelines such as observing social distancing, compulsory wearing of masks, and temperature checks for customers.
President Mnangagwa recently directed the reopening of informal sector which saw a number of flea markets, popularly known as koKhothama that had been closed as part of lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, resuming activity.
He, however, stressed that Zimbabwe remained under level two lockdown and that with the threat of Covid-19 still hanging over the country, people had to embrace the new normal ways of living to minimise the risks of infection.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has since identified new vending sites for 600 informal vendors who were affected by the closure of the 5th Avenue market place in the city centre.
The council also designated some areas in the city centre to be used as vending sites by flea market traders.
The traders are expected to follow the “new normal’’ that requires the wearing of masks, registering with council, maintenance of high levels of personal hygiene and social distancing, as spelt out by President Mnangagwa recently.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited selected flea markets in the city centre and observed that the generality of traders and members of the public were adhering to the health guidelines.
However, there was no social distancing during business transactions in some cases.
At a flea market neighbouring Highlanders Sports Club, there was a woman manning the entrance who identified herself only as MaMoyo.
She said they were directed to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 regulations.
“This is now part of our new normal, we have been instructed to make sure that we strictly adhere to the Covid-19 health regulations. We are not allowing anyone without a face mask to access the flea market. We also make sure that we check your temperature and sanitise your hands,” she said.
Chronicle also noticed that stalls were marked at the flea market. The same applied to another flea market along Sixth Avenue near Renkini Bus Terminus.
Flea market traders who spoke to Chronicle said while they are happy to embrace the “new normal,” business was still low.
“We are happy to be back in business although business is yet to pick up following months of a prolonged lockdown. As you can see, we have also incorporated this way of doing things where we are supposed to be donning face masks, hand sanitising and regular temperature checks before accessing the premises,” said Ms Nozitha Ndlovu, a trader at the flea market neighbouring Highlanders Sports Club.
Another flea market trader, Ms Elizabeth Dlodlo weighed in: “This new normal is important as it will help contain the spread of Covid-19. At first, I thought it would be difficult for me to adapt to this new way of doing things, but I have now adopted it and feel comfortable wearing a facemask in a public place.”
However, there is potential danger that Covid-19 could be spread not only among the traders, but also buyers as there is no social distancing during business transactions.
In some cases, there is high levels of complacency as some people could be spotted improperly donning face masks.
Traders operating at these designated flea markets are registered with council. The purpose of registering them is to make contact tracing possible in the event that a Covid-19 case has been recorded.
Statutory Instrument 136, which converts recently announced changes in the lockdown into law, it defines an informal trader as someone whose business is too small to be registered for (Value Added Tax (VAT) and who has not made an income tax return for that business.
Informal traders registered with a local authority for the purposes of paying presumptive taxes or who pay rent on premises for carrying out their operations are now deemed to be in the formal sector. The Chronicle