More than 600 vendors who were trading at the Fifth Avenue market in Bulawayo`s central business district, would be allocated vending spots closest to their places of residence, the city council has said.
Their relocation would be informed by the existing City of Bulawayo’s vendors database.
This comes after the Fifth Avenue, stretching from Robert Mugabe to Lobengula Street, was closed permanently to any form of trading.
The road will be reopened as a public road in terms of the Roads and Traffic Act.
Speaking at a press conference recently, Director of Housing and Community Services, Dictor Khumalo, said the relocation of vendors was in line with decentralisation of vending activities and was meant to decongest the CBD in response to the spread of COVID-19.
“We are going to be allocating vending areas to all shopping centres in the western areas. There are 604 vendors trading at Fifth Avenue who were affected. We know them and we will give them trading spaces closest to their places of residence. Bulawayo has shopping centres in all western and eastern suburbs, where there are spots designated for vending purposes to enable people to buy vegetables next to them,” he said.
Khumalo noted that COVID-19 had given the council an opportunity to relook into its operations with a view to make operations of others easier.
“We observed there was unnecessary movement as people moved to gather in the CBD to buy tomatoes then go back to their homes at great cost and inconvenience to them,” he said.
Vendors operating in Lobengula Street would not be removed but Khumalo said re-planning will take place to respond to the requirements of COVID-19.
Weekend open-air flea market such as the popular Khothama market along 8th avenue has been abolished.
“Most of the traders who operate there during the weekend are people from flea markets in town, so it’s not like most don’t have places to trade from. They do have spots except that the Tower Block was lucrative because of the numbers generated so business was vibrant and thriving,” Khumalo said.
The housing director claimed council had identified several places to accommodate these vendors.
“Other than suburban areas that have been identified, you will observe there is a place we fixed next to Highlanders Football Club. The place has been paved, toilets rehabilitated and portable water is available, which are the requirements required in the response against the COVID-19 pandemic. So there are traders who are going to be accommodated at Highlanders,” he said.
The city official said council had also identified food distribution hubs, where fresh produce delivery trucks will be offloaded.
“We will direct the cars to approved food distribution hubs. At least five have been identified and are ready to start anytime. The hub at Old Pumula is already working, it was commissioned by council two years ago. Deliveries are already ongoing.
“The other strategic location we are looking at is Emganwini and we have identified a partner there who can work with us. We also identified a market place in Tshabalala, the other points are in New Magwegwe, Magwegwe North and Entumbane. As for other places we are
still working on them so much that by end of this week we should have made progress,” Khumalo said.
Khumalo said council would make sure vendors operating in the western suburbs were incorporated.
“Most vendors were selling without licenses so we will approach and engage them so that they trade legally in line with city by-laws,” he said.
Although the permanent removal of vendors from the Firth Avenue market is a COVID-19 response, the move was unconstitutional, law experts have said.
Constitutional law expert, Kucaca Phulu, told CITE that city officials should have engaged with vendors before removing them.
“We see the efforts that are coming out against COVID-19 but what did not come out clearly goes back to the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:17) and Section 32 of the Constitution on what must be followed in implementing measures regarding public health.
“Yes, we are aware authorities are responding to this crisis but since they said this is permanent move, they must have consulted with the affected vendors,” he noted.
Phulu said authorities must observe human rights even in such times.
“Section 68 of the Constitution says if anything is to be done, the affected person must be consulted, so all the people who are registered with licenses should have been consulted before such steps were done.
“By failing to consult, a litigant can take the authorities to court arguing they are in breach. Even in the face of COVID-19, rights of people are not suspended. This is not a state of emergency, officials should co-abide by those rights as they were not ceased,” explained the MP for Nkulumane Constituency.