Informal traders, vendors circumvent lockdown 

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TAMARI CHIKIWA

SOME informal traders, vendors and small businesses in Bulawayo are sneaking back onto the streets despite the current 30-day strict lockdown imposed by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Under the regulations of the lockdown, only businesses offering essential services are allowed to operate from 8am until 3pm.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has also been imposed with only essential services workers and learners writing public examinations permitted to move between 6am and 6pm.

The rest of the public is required to stay indoors and only leave their homes to buy groceries and medication within a 5km radius.

Despite all these regulations, vendors and small traders have found a way to still enter the Bulawayo Central Business District (CBD) and conduct their business clandestinely.

The Daily News on Sunday observed that some vendors are standing by the streets without displaying their products, but when they see a potential customer, they quickly lead them to where they hide their stash.

Most of them were standing close to offices along 11th Street such that one could mistake them for essential service employees within the buildings.

One of the vendors told the Daily News on Sunday that she cannot stay at home because it’s the streets that provide her income.

“This is wrong according to health regulations but I also cannot help it because this is how I get my income. If I stay home, I will starve and fail to pay my rentals,” said the vendor, who identified herself as MaMpondo.

MaMpondo said she deliberately dressed formally so that the police won’t suspect her of being a vendor.

The woman, who sells small groceries ranging from bath soap, washing powder, sugar and cooking oil, said once she sees a potential customer she talks nicely and negotiates prices before leading the client to where the goods are stored.

Another vendor said he decided to come to town because he needs the money as his two children are writing examinations and need bus fare daily.

“My children are writing exams and they need money for transport from home to town everyday so if I stay at home, I won’t be able to get their bus fare,” said the vendor, who refused to be identified.

An illegal foreign currency dealer at Bulawayo Centre, said he simply sits in his friend’s office while communicating with clients.

“Once we agree on the transactions, I direct them to the office. It’s just smart like that,” said the man, who identified himself as Joe.

The Daily News on Sunday also observed that some restaurants in 12th Avenue and Fife Street are operating in a surreptitious manner.

Most of these establishments have closed their doors and display “Closed” signs but their employees are on the streets soliciting for customers.

Once they vet that the potential customers are genuine food seekers, they are allowed to get into the restaurant.

Some mobile vendors are now parking their vehicles on the side lines of roads in Eastern suburbs and with limited police patrols, they are selling their products without any hindrance.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Abednico Ncube warned the informal traders saying the law enforcement agents will be stepping up their patrols.

“This is an illegal practice that we condemn as police. We want to warn those violating the law that we are hunting for them and soon they will be arrested.

“We urge members of the public to inform us in case they notice such notorious behaviour. We raided a shebeen in Magwegwe after a tip off from the public so we are working tirelessly to bring sanity to the streets,” Ncube he said.

He warned members of the public to take Covid-19 regulations seriously.

“This is a serious issue pertaining life and death so let’s take this seriously. Let’s observe all regulations,” Ncube said.

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