GWERU City Council faces headaches in accommodating 5 500 informal traders who are on the waiting list at a time two private companies engaged by the local authority missed last year’s deadline to complete renovating market stalls, resulting in illegal vending at a time Covid-19 cases and deaths are on the rise.
The increase in the number of people interested in vending has been attributed to the closure of major companies in the Midlands capital. Mayor Josiah Makombe said the renovation of Kudzanai and Kombayi informal markets as well as construction of new sites is expected to be completed this year.
He urged the informal traders to be patient as the two companies contracted by council, Bentach Resources Pvt and Casas Property Investments, faced challenges in importing building material from South Africa.
The council boss said those on the waiting list should desist from illegal vending as the practice was facilitating the spread of Covid-19.
“The informal traders’ waiting list currently stands at 5 447,”Makombe told The NewsHawks in an interview this week.
“As you might be aware, we are renovating old markets like Kudzanai, Kombayi and Ivene. We are however, going to construct new sites and the biggest will be at the new Mtapa Bus Terminus where over 5 000 market stalls will be built,” Makombe said.
As a temporary measure, the city has allocated vending space at the yet-to-be-constructed Mtapa Rank, he said.
“As much as everyone should understand that we cannot accommodate all informal traders on the waiting list at once, it is important that people exercise patience,” he said.
“That some vendors choose to engage in illegal trading, particularly at this time when coronavirus is ravaging, is not only a disservice to the city’s efforts to fight the pandemic but also the country as a whole.”
Last week, this publication reported that hundreds of vendors had defied council directive in Mtapa, a Covid-19 hotspot in the city.
But Gweru Hawkers and Vendors Association acting chairperson Lovemore Tingaka said council should move with speed in building new vending bays to curb illegal vending.
“As vendors, it is not our intention to break the law,” he said.
“What is however clear is that informal trading has become the biggest employer in the country and almost everyone is now an informal trader in one way or the other. So we need speed in construction of proper vending bays.”
Tingaka urged traders not to embark on illegal trading, particularly during the lockdown period meant to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Gweru United Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Development Association executive director David Chikore weighed in, saying council could increase its revenue streams if it builds more vending marts.
However, he called on city officials to be transparent when allocating vending sites.