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Survival of informal traders on the line due to COVID-19 restrictions


By Runako Rukwere

Amos Mubayi, lays his wares on the pavement along Julius Nyerere, a street in the central business district. He sells petticoats and face masks; this is all he has to generate money for his family’s survival. 

His business, as with many others, has been affected by the coronavirus induced lockdown.

“My business relies on the movement of people, those who pass by this road are my potential customers but because of these lockdowns, movement is limited and that greatly affects me,” he says.

He adds that sometimes the police raid them because they sell in unauthorised areas, but he continues to return because it’s the only business he can embark on with his condition.

Mubayi has cancer on his leg and uses clutches to walk. “I have to check with people with shops around me if the police have been patrolling so that I make a decision on what to do since I cannot run to avoid arrest because of my condition,” he says. 

Mubayi who has been a vendor for the past five years says on a good day, he makes USD$25 but because of the low movement of people, he sometimes goes home with USD$5.

Mubayi sits on the pavement along Julius Nyerere in Harare, where he sells his wares.

A 2021 study titled Poverty on the rise: The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the informal sector of Gweru, Zimbabwe, published by the International Social Science Journal, notes that it is estimated that the informal sector contributes to over 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product and accounts for  over 80 per cent of the country’s employment figure. 

It further states that a large population depends on the informal sector therefore it was to be expected that the restrictions would push many into poverty and highly expose them to COVID-19.

Samuel Wadzai, executive director for Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation, acknowledges that informal traders have suffered significant loss of income because of the numerous lockdowns that were instituted by the government as a way of curbing the further spread of COVID-19.

Wadzai adds that their members have faced numerous challenges which include arbitrary confiscation of wares, arrests and destruction of property.  

“We have also seen local authorities taking advantage of the same lockdowns to demolish informal traders’ markets and this has left thousands with no spaces to operate from.

“We urge the government to ensure transparency in the allocation of reconstructed markets so that informal traders do not become victims of corruption and nepotism,” he says.

For Mubayi to raise USD$80 he requires for chemotherapy after every three weeks, he is willing to take the risk of coming to his spot every day. 

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