Street vendors in Zimbabwe look for shelter

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/06/15, 09:00 am

Street vendors and cars crowd the streets of Harare, capital of Zimbabwe. The vendors’ daily job is to sell clothing, food, and cosmetics, but Zimbabwe’s government yesterday issued an ultimatum: Starting on Sunday, no street-selling allowed.

Tendai Mahachi, a Harare city council clerk, said a designated selling area has space for 6,000 vendors, but 20,000 are operating in the area. The army warns it will use military force if the sellers fail to comply.

At least two-thirds of Zimbabweans engage in informal trade due to the country’s economic meltdown, according to the African Development Bank. The National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe attacked the ultimatum, with union director Samuel Wadzai asking, “Where will our members go? Survival has to come before anything else, and right now we can only survive through street vending.”

Tupo Dzzetse became a vendor after escaping anti-immigrant attacks in South Africa. He doesn’t plan to let go easily: “At least I had a job in South Africa. But this is my country of birth, so they will have to kill me first.”

So far, the vendors are receiving support, with human rights lawyers warning local government minister Ignatius Chombo that they will bring legal action if the ultimatum remains.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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