Vendors in Hwange are up in arms with Hwange Rural District Council which they accuse of unilaterally hiking vending license fees without consultations.
The vendors argue that the 217 percent hike which will see a vendor parting with US$114 from the US$36 charged last year was unjustified and crippling their livelihoods.
The vendors through the Hwange Vendors and Traders Association (HVTA) wrote to the local authority on 24 February expressing their shock and displeasure at the development.
The association’s spokesperson, Elton Mguni told CITE that they had engaged HRDC to plead their case while accusing the council of imposing rates on them.
“As an association standing for vendors we saw it fit to engage other stakeholders and together with Greater Whange Residents Trust we jointly authored a letter of objection to council registering our concern over the hike in vending licenses. We appealed to HRDC to review downwards or revert to the US$36 even though we still feel it’s too high. The problem is that as stakeholders we are not engaged or invited to budget meetings. It’s like they impose these increases on us, even knowledge of the criteria used to arrive or justify the rates is unknown,” said Mguni.
He said the vendors were still reeling under the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic which robbed them of their livelihoods as restrictions locked down their activities.
“Yes, one may argue that it’s an amount that is paid per year however, for people like vendors its too exorbitant. For some of our members, this is the amount of a loan you would acquire to start a business only to discover what you need to get a vending license. We are coming from extremely difficulty times brought on by the pandemic. Over the past two years, Covid-19 wrecked havoc as vendors we were adversely affected as we were unable to due to the lockdowns. Even as we speak we haven’t really recovered.”
Mguni bemoaned the failure by the government to cushion them against the economic impacts of Covid-19 on their businesses.
“As vendors especially in Hwange, we didn’t receive any form of cushioning or aid during the lockdowns which also prompted us to organize ourselves into an association. At the same time to get back into business, most members had to sell part of their properties to restock.”
Meanwhile, Greater Whange Residents Trust described the hike as “illogical” arguing that the rural authority had no mandate to collect revenue in Hwange Local Board areas.
“GWRT is vehemently opposed to the hiking of the vending licence fee from USD36 to USD114. Vendors were hard hit by Covid 19 lockdown restrictions and the hiking of fees defies logic by the rural council. We are also going to challenge the legality of HRDC to collect revenue in a wards that falls under Hwange Local Board. Most vendors fall under Hwange Local Board jurisdiction but surprisingly they are forced to pay license fees to RDC. Vendors have never been consulted by RDC and the only time RDC remembers them is when they will be with law enforcement officers demanding license fees,” said Fidelis Chima, GWRT coordinator.
HRDC chief executive officer, Phindile Ncube refused to comment arguing that he was yet to see the letter.
“I can’t comment on the issue as I’m yet to see the letter if ever it was delivered to my office.”