Lockdown: Informal traders back in town

Some of the informal traders in Bulawayo who had initially heeded government’s Covid-19 national lockdown order are now back on the streets, clandestinely selling their various wares.

Zimbabwe effected the 30 day national lockdown on Tuesday as part of measures to contain the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 431 people as of January 6, 2021 while the country registered a record breaking 1 365 positives Covid-19 cases on a single day on January 5, 2021.

During the first day of the lockdown, the streets of Bulawayo were almost empty, as most people stayed at home, complying with the restrictions.

But some informal traders are back on the streets, trying to make a living.

A snap survey carried around the city centre by CITE on Thursday afternoon revealed that a sizeable number of vendors were back selling various goods and vegetables at the market along 5th Avenue. 

This reporter even bought mosquito coils from one of the informal traders.

One female vendor selling tomatoes and onions said, “it was better to be killed by Corona than to stay at home. If I am at home, who will feed my children?”

She claimed that she had been smartly evading patrols done by police and soldiers.

Another trader said before the lockdown was announced, she had already ordered a tonne of tomatoes from Chegutu and was forced to come to town in order to sell them.

“I have made a loss but I need to sell some tomatoes. I had been assessing the lockdown situation and saw it was safe hence my decision to come to town otherwise I would have been stuck with rotting tomatoes,” she said.

She also alleged she had bribed some soldiers to be able to sell her products during the lockdown.

Despite having their business operations suspended as well, some motor vehicle spare part shops were clandestinely selling their products.

A Nigerian national had locked the doors to his shop but was seated by the entrance steps waiting for customers. 

One customer was seen buying a radiator cap.

“We have touts who are directing customers here. Since the lockdown, business has been good,” said the Nigerian businessperson outside the shop situated along the corner of 4th Avenue and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo road.

Some clothing shops were slightly opened under the guise of “stock-taking.”

However, the situation in the city centre was peaceful with rare sights of police and soldiers. 

Most informal shops remain closed, expect for large supermarket outlets such as SPAR, OK and TM.

Pharmacies were also open for business while all liquor selling outlets including bottles stores seemed closed.

Meanwhile, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, warned business entities that were still operating and defying the national lockdown order.

“My ministry is concerned with bars, night clubs, restaurants, and other business entities who are operating yet according to Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021, these are banned. I have directed the Commissioner-General of Police to make sure the law takes its course on any individual, syndicate or business entity contravening Covid-19 regulations. There is no need for anyone to grandstand,” he said in a statement, pleading with public figures and musicians to lead by example in fighting this pandemic.

Kazembe said police officers would move around all suburbs, shopping centres even checking houses to account for transgressions against Covid-19 regulations and other criminal activities.

“I am equally disturbed by some shopping centres in some areas in the country, which are now known for wild parties, beer drinking binges and all sorts of illegalities. This should stop forthwith. I urge the public to report to any nearest Police Station, individuals or groups holding parties or musical events or  any other gatherings not sanctioned under Covid-19 regulations.  Organisers of such events will face the wrath of the law and risk loosing their licences,” said the minister.

He implored Zimbabweans to comply with the revised Covid-19 national lockdown Level IV measures and restrictions saying the country could only curb the pandemic if people were united, committed and law abiding citizens. 

“It is a fact that Covid-19 is affecting everyone. It knows no colour, creed, boundary or status. Let us take it serious and adopt the new normal in order to promote health and the maintenance of law and order in the country,” Kazembe said.

Kazembe also noted with concern, that despite funerals allowed a maximum of 30 people, this limit was still disregarded by many. 

“Citizens are urged to observe this regulation. Any violation of this requirement will meet the full wrath of the law,” he said.

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