Informal traders cry foul over new lockdown restrictions

By Albert Nxumalo

INFORMAL traders especially women will be ‘badly affected’ by the new wave of lockdown measures which kick off on Tuesday countrywide as there are no provisions for social protection for vulnerable groups, vendor associations have said.

On Saturday, Government announced new stiff  30 day lockdown restrictions which see the return to a 6 pm-6 am curfew due to a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

According to the measures announced by Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga only essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies, and supermarkets will remain open with limited stuff from 8 am through 3 pm.

Markets are not classified as essential services.

In a joint statement by Informal Traders Associations under the Informal Economy Matters Coalition on the Lockdown, it said while the lockdown is ‘ necessary under the circumstances to protect and save lives there is concern  that their members will again be hit hard by the regulations.

“We realise that this move has been done in the interest of public health in light of the recent surge in Covid-19 positive cases and deaths. It is, however, of concern to the informal sector representatives organisations that there are no provisions of social protection for vulnerable groups of people such as members of our organisation,” the statement read.

“We are also concerned that market places have been placed on outright closure.”

As of 3 January, Zimbabwe had 15 265 confirmed cases, including 11 574 recoveries and 380 deaths.

The vendors said they would have preferred that only licenced vendors be allowed to operate under laid down Covid-19 protocols.

As for Bulawayo, the associations said the city’s vendors and traders association “had already made significant strides in providing materials such as hand sanitisers, masks and water dispensers for washing hands in over 22 markets in Bulawayo”.

The closure of markets will likely fuel illegal cross border crossing and ‘lead to lose of life at illegal crossing points on the crocodile infested Limpopo River’.

“Women traders have been seem claiming to be closing in order to buy medicines.

“Women make up the bulk of informal sector workers and they will be particularly affected  by the new regulations, as they will lose their sources of  what little income they earn.

“It is emphasised that the needs of women must always be considered a priority when such regulations are introduced”.

As a way forward, the associations said they will “work with Government through dialogue to develop a win-win situation for the informal sector in terms of policy and policy implementation, particularly on the current lockdown measures”.

Under the new restrictions, people are only allowed to venture out of their homes to buy essentials like food and medicines or transporting sick relatives.

Inter-provincial and intercity transport services are now restricted to essential services.

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