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Informal Trading

Articles highlighting some of the challenges faced by Informal Traders across Zimbabwe


Resistance and Resilience by Informal Traders in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Beyond Weapons of the Weak

Source:  Inocent Moyo -Urban Forum 29, 299–313 (2018)

Based on Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, this paper shows that the growth of urban informality can be explained by shifts in the Zimbabwean economy. These shifts include the corporatist socialist ideology phase (1980–1989), the era of neoliberal economic policies (1990–1997) and the return to restrictionism and reign of predatory politics (1998–present).


Instead of triggering economic growth, these changes led to falling industrial production and declining levels of growth, leading to unemployment. This provided a fertile ground for the growth of the informal sector, such as informal street traders (informal traders). Utilising a qualitative study of 200 informal street traders in Bulawayo, who were purposively sampled between June and December 2013, the paper argues that the presence of such traders in Bulawayo is a form of both covert and overt resistance to the local and central government.


Such a response by the informal traders highlights resistance and resilience, first to the economic crisis and secondly to the local and central government, which failed to meet their employment needs. This resistance has taken surreptitious forms, such as dodging municipality police patrols or staying hidden from the regulatory regimes (weapons of the weak), but has also graduated beyond this, taking the form of open defiance of and resorting to legal means to fight the regulatory regimes (beyond weapons of the weak). In this way, the paper offers a nuanced analysis of the enduring presence of street traders in a setting where there is a vibrant and repressive regulatory regime.


Further, because urban informality is an integral part of urbanisation in the Global South, there is need for strategies that progressively integrate these economic actors.

Read the original article on Urban Forum

Zimbabwe: Destruction of Market Stalls a Silent Torture - Informal Traders

Source:  TheEastAfrican By KITSEPILE NYATHI, MAY 11 2020


Zimbabwe is clamping down on second-hand clothes imports as cross-border Covid-19 coronavirus infections and smuggling surge.

Cross-border traders, who make their living from buying and selling goods sourced from neighbouring countries, are defying lockdown regulations to illegally cross into countries such as South Africa and Mozambique, according to authorities.

Monica Mutsvangwa, the Minister of Information, said smuggling activities especially along the vast Mozambique border pose a serious threat as imported coronavirus cases are on the increase.

“An increase in the smuggling of second-hand clothes into the country through border posts with Mozambique such as Mt Selinda and Sango poses unprecedented danger of spreading Covid-19 by to those who wear them,” Mrs Mutsvangwa said following a Cabinet meeting on the issue last week.

“The government will upscale the enforcement of the law banning the importation of second hand-clothes,” she added.

Zimbabwe first banned the importation of second-clothes in 2015 to protect the country’s textile industry, but relaxed the restrictions two years later as it is a major source of income for informal traders hit hard by the collapse of the economy.


Traders source bales of the clothes from Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia to resell to locals whose shrinking sources of income make it difficult for them to buy brand new clothes.

Read the original article on The East African

Zimbabwe: Destruction of Market Stalls a Silent Torture - Informal Traders

Source:  263chat By Elia Ntali, 23 April 2020

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The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) an informal traders organisation has expressed distress over the recent destruction of market stalls by local authorities.

In a statement, ZCIEA said the action by local authorities was torture on the informal economy which is trading for survival.

"ZCIEA is deeply saddened by the horrible, inhuman and ruthless destruction of vendors' stalls in Kwekwe, Mbare, Machipisa and other areas by the local authorities. As an organization that works with and represents informal economy workers across 42 territories in Zimbabwe, ZCIEA sees this action as a silent form of harassment and torture of innocent citizens on informal economy trading for survival," said ZCEIA

The vendor organisation says each time there is an outbreak of a disease they are thrown on the deep end.

"Whenever there is an outbreak, either cholera or typhoid informal economy workers and traders are blamed as the causes of such outbreaks, now we have COVID-19 they are victims again, their stalls are being destroyed. Why is the public health war on COVID-19 pandemic becoming a war on the livelihoods of the vulnerable urban poor dependent on informal trading for their livelihoods? The action just takes place as a sudden attack, with no consultation"

The organisation says the move is an act of hostility on legitimate vendors who are working to earn a living.

"ZCEIA condemns this deplorable act of animosity. Vendors are human too and above all, legitimate citizens of Zimbabwe who are working against all odds to make an honest living. Whichever source of this instruction we believe this is heartless advice which is awful and the worst of its kind in this critical moment of life for the informal workers and traders. To make it worse part of Harare demolitions took place on Independence Day, 18 April 2020.

"We urgently request for this action to stop. The timing and approach are both harsh and wrong. The criminalization and stigmatization of informal workers and traders must stop" said ZCEIA

Local authorities are on a drive to restore sanity in cities and towns and have taken the current Covid-19 lockdown to clear illegal structures.

Informal TardersVendorsZimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations.

Read the original article on 263Chat

Lockdown: The cost of Harare’s demolitions for informal traders

Source:  New Zimbabwe, 28 April 2020

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For 57-year-old Farai Chikanya, talk that people would lose their jobs following the government-imposed lockdown in Zimbabwe was not much of a bother. Having been retrenched in 2015, all he wanted was to reopen his grinding mill, which he operated at an open space in Harare’s high-density suburb of Glen View. But besides the loss of income due to coronavirus, Chikanya faces an additional obstacle. His business was operating outside of the sites designated for such businesses – in other words, illegally.

For Chikanya, the lockdown has meant loss of revenue for more than a month, cutting off his ability to pay rent or feed his family.

He knows Zimbabwe’s government is struggling financially and he did not expect the country to be first in line when global lenders doled out support to fight the impact of the coronavirus, he said. He did not expect financial support from government. All he wanted was to return to his grinding mill.  There are many like him.

According to Farai Mutambanengwe, founder and executive officer of SME Association of Zimbabwe, small-scale operators are not holding their breath for a government stimulus package.

‘People just want to get on with their lives’ “From our membership, there doesn’t seem to be much clamouring for support, but rather about being able to operate,” he said in a response via text message.  “The main issue is the disruption of business itself, but the assistance being asked for is pretty much the same things they wanted anyway, outside of the lockdown situation. “I think people just want to get on with their lives as best as possible. They are aware of the situation, and government’s limitations,” Mutambanengwe said.


But for Chikanya, and many others dotted across Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, the possibility of returning to their workstations has now been dashed.  This is after the Harare City Council began demolishing illegal structures across the capital city.

Spokesperson for Council Michael Chideme said the municipality was taking advantage of low human traffic during the lockdown to move the stands to properly designated sites.  There were, however, fears that some of the businesses that were operating illegally, like Chikanya’s, could not be accommodated at the designated sites.  Chideme said while council would try to accommodate everyone, business operations like Chikanya’s would have to follow approved procedures and look for accommodation at areas reserved for such kind of businesses.

“The rationale for this exercise is to remove all illegal structures. Whether one has a grinding mill or not, for as long as you are operating illegally, one has to move,” he said.

Millions in the informal sector

In a country where the unemployment rate is approximately 90%, according to economist John Robertson, millions had turned to the informal sector, where most also operated from illegal spaces and structures.

The 2019 Labour Force and Child Labour Survey indicated that the share of informal economy employment was 76% of total employment, indicating the high levels of informality in the country.  But, with the Zimbabwe government already facing budgetary constraints and grappling with rampant unemployment before the virus hit, it will be hard-pressed to provide support for people like Chikanya.

The fallout from the virus could place 25% of permanent formal jobs and 75% of casual/temporary formal jobs at risk, according to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce in a research note in the wake of Covid-19.  Council’s move will only add to the numbers.

Coronavirus and hunger

“We are now fighting the battle at two fronts, Covid-19 and hunger,” said a dejected Chikanya after the corrugated building housing his grinding meal was demolished by Council officials.

Chikanya is skeptical he’ll be able to revive his business once the virus is brought under control.

He said the processes and costs of getting a trading place and an operating licence for his grinding meal were too

For 57-year-old Farai Chikanya, talk that people would lose their jobs following the government-imposed lockdown in Zimbabwe was not much of a bother.Having been retrenched in 2015, all he wanted was to reopen his grinding mill, which he operated at an open space in Harare’s high-density suburb of Glen View.


Read the original article on New Zimbabwe

The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Turned Police Officers & Municipality Police Into Robbers – Report

Source:  Pindula News, 17 May 2020


Some ZRP police officers and municipal police officers are demanding and soliciting bribes from vendors and informal traders that are breaking the law by setting up shop when they are not supposed to operate during the lockdown, Open Parly reports. Some officers are reportedly extorting money from people caught wearing wrong masks or wearing masks the wrong way.

The publication spoke to a few informal traders in Harare who said:

'' They mainly focus on those who are into selling and we actually have no recourse so we just pay them. The lockdown has deprived us of our jobs so we are mainly surviving on selling a variety of goods.​ So the police come and threaten us and they have actually become some kind of Mafia, who you have to pay to be safe''.

A vendor that spoke to the publication also said they have to go back to vending to make ends meet, but police officers are extorting money from them:

….''Thus we have been forced by the situation to go back and start vending and trading at those illegal places because we have no alternative.

The government has simply announced a lockdown without social support mechanism, how do survive?

Now the police are extorting money from us, it’s pathetic''.

Read the original article on Pindula News

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