Back to Index
New laws hamper re-establishment of informal businesses
HARARE - Informal
traders affected by Zimbabwe's recent urban cleanup campaign have
welcomed government efforts to restore their livelihoods, but say
greater effort is needed if the country's lucrative informal sector
is to recover.
A demolition drive, which began in May, uprooted thousands of informal
traders in the country's urban centres. Months later many are returning
to the cities but complain that strict new regulations governing
how they do business is hampering their ability to make a living.
"While we applaud the government for giving us another chance, there
is something wrong with the way in which authorities are handling
the issue of re-establishing flea [informal] markets," said James
Taruziva, a trader at Mupedzanhamo market in the capital, Harare.
Taruziva considered himself lucky after his application to trade
at Mupedzanhamo was successful. However, his optimism soon turned
into disillusionment when he saw the new by-laws.
"When we came back, the municipality told us that we should not
use tables or racks, insisting that we should sell our goods on
the floor. Customers tend to shy away from the clothes that I sell
because they easily become dirty, and at the end of the day I don't
get much money," he said.
Before the cleanup operation, Taruziva could take home as much as
Z$500,000 (US $20) a day; now the maximum he hopes to make is around
Z$150,000 (US $6). He is also expected to pay a monthly tax of Z$700,000
(US $28) to the local government.
Harare's municipal council recently established 42 flea markets
at shopping centres outside the city centre, saying the move was
meant to decongest the central business district.
Under the revised by-laws, informal markets in low- as well as high-density
areas only operate during weekends, unlike in the past when they
Israel Mabhoo, a spokesman for the Alternative Business Association
(ABA), an organisation promoting microfinance enterprises, has accused
the government of poor planning.
"It just goes to show that the government is not committed to empowering
informal traders. Flea markets should not be limited to weekends
- it will definitely be difficult for people to generate enough
income only during weekends," Mabhoo told IRIN.
He pointed out that several informal markets in the city centre,
where business could be conducted without causing congestion, remained
"What is important is to revisit the municipal by-laws and find
ways of accommodating flea market operators, rather than seeing
them as potential criminals," said Mabhoo.
Zenzo Ncube, 29, who sells electrical goods and beauty products
at Malbereign Shopping Centre, about 5 km northwest of Harare, complained
that the market was out of the way.
"Business is quiet, and I expect it to be so in the future, because
potential clients cannot afford the money to make two trips to do
their shopping here," he said.
"At the end of the day, I may be forced to close shop because operating
in an area which people cannot easily access, and where I operate
only on weekends, is not viable - but where will I get the money
for my child's school fees, rent and food if I stop?" Ncube asked.
It is generally agreed that the parallel market used to generate
35 percent of GDP, but in recent years, as a result of a drawn-out
economic crisis, the real figure could have risen as high as 60
percent - almost double.
Innocent Makwiramiti, chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe National
Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern that reconstruction of the
informal sector was taking too long.
"There was a lot of hurry when informal trading points were destroyed
and while we welcome the decision to re-establish the sector, there
is hardly any progress to talk about.
"Tens of thousands of people who were in the trade were affected
by the cleanup operation but, to date, beneficiaries would hardly
number more than 2,000. Besides poor planning, the government lacks
the necessary resources to rebuild what it has destroyed, while
there seems to be lack of coordination between relevant line ministries,
such as local government, finance and small-to-medium enterprises,"
Makwiramiti told IRIN.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.