Zimbabwe: Traders Ignore Covid-19 Regulations

13 August 2020

Most informal traders are disregarding Covid-19 health guidelines and have returned to pre-pandemic operations.

Before being allowed to operate during the indefinite lockdown, vendors pledged to limit the number of people within their work spaces.

Through their representative associations, they also said they would be sanitising customers, among a raft of other precautionary measures.

What is obtaining on the ground is different from what they promised in desperate times.

When The Herald went around markets in Harare, there was "a business as usual" approach.

At Mupedzanhamo, traders had masks lowered to their chins with no social distancing and at Mbare vegetable market, there was the same laxity with multiple entries being in use despite vendors having promised to use only two entrances to minimise movement.

The case was the same at Tichagarika Shopping Centre in Glen View 3 and many other similar establishments across the capital.

Vendors claimed enforcement by authorities was the missing link.

Before re-opening, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) said they had capacity to self-regulate, but yesterday blamed local authorities for the prevailing situation.

VISET director Mr Samuel Wadzayi said: "Local authorities have not put in place systems to manage the operations of traders at those markets. There should be agreed ways of doing business given the fact this is a very different environment."

Wadzayi said vendors did not have the requisite consumables for safe operations.

"The second challenge is that vendors do not have protective clothing," he said. "We are calling upon authorities to ensure that these traders have got the necessary equipment so they do not end up exposing people to the virus."

Mr Wadzayi called on local authorities and the Government to be more aggressive in raising awareness for vendors.

The Harare City Council said it would continue encouraging adherence to best practices at their facilities.

Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said: "We are encouraging social distancing, providing sanitisers and water. We are also ensuring traders have masks and observe Government stipulated opening and closing hours."

Mr Chideme said the country was facing a national challenge and enforcement was the responsibility of all arms of Government.

"Those who refuse to observe the regulations are ejected and will only be readmitted when they are ready to comply," he said.

At Mbudzi roundabout, police officers were observed focusing on vehicles and hitchhikers, ignoring people flouting simple regulations on social distancing and wearing of masks.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a spike in Covid-19 cases, with the number of infections nearing 5 000.

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