Covid-19 fight: Vending no crime, but…

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CASES of the deadly coronavirus in the country continue to go up. As of Sunday, the country had recorded 4 818 cases, including 104 deaths and 1 544 recoveries. Medical experts have since warned that the situation will worsen as winter comes to an end.

Recently, there has been an influx of illegal street vendors in central business districts across the country, raising fears of the spread of the deadly pandemic at the unsanctioned food markets.

Lately, of great concern are reports that even at legal food markets, people have contracted Covid-19 and the question is what then would happen at unregulated and undesignated places.

The government, just over a week ago, had to put measures in place at food markets after seven traders at Mbare Musika, Harare, tested positive for Covid-19 during a rapid testing exercise at hotspots for the disease.

The government resolved to allow food markets to operate for six days and close on the seventh day for coronavirus disinfection exercises. It is against this background that we feel that the government and local authorities across the country should not allow illegal vendors to swarm the central business districts.

In our edition yesterday, national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said a blitz on illegal vendors currently taking place should not be misconstrued as a crackdown, but enforcement of laws under the current coronavirus national lockdown to mitigate the spread of the killer disease.

“It was made clear by the government that for vendors to operate during this national lockdown period they should be registered and have permits authorising them to conduct business lawfully. Some have a tendency to blame the police on everything, even those operating outside the confines of the law.

“The law is clear that they should be licensed and our duty is to enforce the law. Our message is clear, people should operate lawfully and they will not have any problems with law enforcement officers,” Nyathi said.

The illegal vendors and some sectors of the society deem the blitz as “not people oriented”, but it’s an environmentally friendly move meant to protect people from being infected by coronavirus.

It is without doubt that the push factor for these illegal vendors is the high levels of unemployment in the country, but the government has set aside designated vending places to make them eke out a living.

The illegal vendors must conform to the law of the land and follow the prescribed processes rather than violating council by laws and compromise people’s safety. There is no defence for illegal activities. The illegal vendors need to re-group and regularise their operations.

It’s not a crime to be a vendor, but to practice at undesignated places is the offence.

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