Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Members of Parliament have demanded the immediate removal of illegal vendors who have flooded Harare’s streets, saying they are a menace and threaten properly-registered retail shops.
Speaking during a question without notice session in the Senate on Thursday, the MPs bemoaned that the majority of the goods sold by the vendors were imports whose duty was not paid.
The vendors are selling their goods right in front of registered shops, taking away business from the Government’s sources of income which is raised through taxes and import duty.
Mashonaland Central Senator Cde Monica Mavhunga asked what mechanisms Government was putting in place to protect formal businesses that were losing business because of street vendors.
“I want to find out what measures they have in place to protect people in permanent trading from the onslaught of vendors who are now in the streets?” she said.
“Large scale operators are paying rates and rents and these small scale operators are operating outside the premises without paying any rentals.”
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa said there was need for street vendors to be removed.
“If they are operating without licences, they are doing it illegally,” she said. “The Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development encourages those who are operating illegally to put their documents in order and they should be given designated points.
“They should leave the verandahs where they are competing with the large scale operators with licences.”
Cde Mabuwa said informal traders who operated at designated places were welcome as vending enhanced their livelihood status.
But this prompted Manicaland Senator Cde Shadreck Chipanga to intervene, arguing that First Street in Harare had lost luster and shape because of street vendors.
“I am not sure whether the minister has been there of late,” he said. “You cannot walk freely and these are not informal traders, these are street vendors.
“Everybody is selling everything there in front of shops which are well established and are supposed to contribute to the fiscus.”
In her response, Deputy Minister Mabuwa said: “Street vending can be legal or illegal, so I want to shy away from commenting on illegal business operations.
“If they are illegal, they should be brought to book. As he has rightfully mentioned, I might not have walked in that particular street that he is referring to, but in general, I am aware that one runs the risk of stepping on someone’s wares or tomatoes as they try to manoeuvre into the next shop.
“I think it is the duty of the local authorities to know who is illegally doing that and where their shops or stores are supposed to be located. Those people who are doing it illegally should be the responsibility of the local authorities.”
The influx of street vendors into Harare’s city centre has resulted in congestion on the roads and pavements.
The vendors sell different wares at lower prices compared to those obtaining in retail shops because they do not have any obligations like paying tax and rentals.
Retailers have since pleaded with Government to protect them from unfair competition posed by the street vendors and deal with serious challenges they pose for formal business.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu told a media briefing in Harare on Thursday that their members wanted authorities to protect them from imported sub-standard products that have flooded the market.
Mr Mutashu said they were not asking Government to ban vending, the source of livelihood for multitudes of families finding sustenance from the trade in a largely informalised economy, but to come up with proper vending sites.
He said vendors selling from undesignated sites faced a number of problems including lack of proper storage, exposure to sun, rain and lack of running water and ablution facilities.