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Monday, August 8, 2022

Whither Zimbabwean informal trader

…As the world commemorates World Day for International Justice

Emmanuel Chitsika

Cat and mouse games have become a common feature in most urban centers as well as growth points as informal traders cling on to their valuable wares running away from policing authorities.
Such has been part of life for an ordinary informal trader who strives to make ends meet not out of choice but as part of adjusting to the harsh economic environment currently obtaining in the country where levels of unemployment keep rising with no solution in sight by responsible authorities.
With 2022 theme of the World Day for International Justice being ‘achieving social justice through formal employment’, the year should have been a moment of reflection on part of various stakeholders as they map way forward on challenges bedeviling the sector and thus coming up with concrete solutions to such problems.
Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation (VISET) president Samuel Wadzai said stakeholders in the sector need to come up with solutions aimed at addressing a host of challenges the sector is facing.
“Genuine, mature conversations are needed on how we can improve the operations of players in the informal economy so that we respond to the social and economic deficits that we continue to witness in the country.
“We hope that at national level, we should have a policy that deals with all these issues. I am aware that the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is embarking on a process of a formalization strategy and we would be happy to be part of the process because we know that if we deal with the issue of formalization, then we would be able to address the challenges,” said Wadzai.
He also said as the world commemorates World Day of International Justice, the organization wishes players in the informal sector join forces and critically reflect on issues affecting them.
“The commemoration serves as a crucial moment of reflection for various stakeholders in the informal economy ecosystem. There are a lot of challenges that the informal economy has been facing even before the advent of Covid-19, chief among them lack of proper marketing facilities, capital to ensure businesses grow and deliberate omission from local authorities budgets even at national level.
“There are also issues like harassment and lack of social protection. The day is really important as it offers an opportunity to reflect in terms of the laws that govern operations of players in the informal economy. So as VISET as we commemorate the day, call upon governments across the continent or globe to look into issues of formalization of the sector. It’s very important that we begin this conversation around formalization which is the only way to address the challenges players in the informal are facing.
“There are several issues like harassment, decent work deficits and issue to do with infrastructure that can only be addressed if stakeholders embark on a comprehensive formalization agenda,” he added.
Wadzai however, bemoaned the manner in which government failed to ensure social protection for informal sector players as the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the situation.
“Looking at issues of Covid-19, yes we faced a number of challenges as a result of the environment we have been operating from. The pandemic only came to worsen the already dire situation. During the lockdown periods, government took advantage to demolish markets without providing alternatives for the traders in the sector. There was no social protection whatsoever, despite the fact that the majority of the population is surviving through the informal economy,” added Wadzai.
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economies Association national president Lorraine Sibanda said government needs to incorporate players from the informal sector as part of coming up with solutions to challenges they face.
“The first question on achievement of justice is on whether it is achievable within a short space of time. These international commemorations are celebrated annually, so maybe next year we are having another theme but achieving social justice through employment should be long term with very concrete measures in place. Speaking for the bulk of workers in the sector, this can be achieved through meaningful formalization that goes beyond registering of the sector and or payment of taxes but creation of a conducive working environment that allows workers to realize meaningful livelihoods.
“The four pillars of decent work (employment creation, social protection, social dialogue and workers’ rights) apart from formalization procedure should be applied towards improvement of informal workers’ lives. It will help to build and grow them as they move towards formal kind of working environment which would ensure they are able to have social protection systems for themselves in case of retirement that elevates them to contributory kind of social security.
“Right now, most of the workers in this sector are living from hand to mouth as they ensure family upkeep. Informal economy work is not a choice for many, but is a response by people who want to maintain the upkeep of families in the wake of unfriendly economic environment,” said Sibanda.
However, she said government has played its part towards such initiatives.
“There is a lot that needs to be done, we cannot say government has not done anything. I think there have been efforts by government which have however been diluted by the fact that workers will not input in to issues affecting them, thus workers need to be part of the solution and thus solutions become relevant.
“Let the affected articulated their issues and give recommendations to some problems they are facing,” added Sibanda.
The World Day for International Justice is commemorated on July 17 and this year runs under the theme ‘Achieving social justice through formal employment’.

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