Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) is implementing a Vendors Voices Project that is creating opportunities for policy engagement between Bulawayo City Council and informal traders. The project is funded by Trust Africa.
Vendors Voices Project uses formal and informal-strategies such as onsite digital age vendors trainings which equip informal traders with digital literacy skills like photography and video filming, use of social media platforms and use of smart mobile phones to report injustices. The project also makes use of Community Based Advocacy Teams (ComBATs), community mobilisation tools like policy engagement stokvels and other spaces for dialogue on issues affecting the informal traders.
The Vendors Voices Project has seen 83% of the participants trained in digital literacy opening Facebook and Twitter accounts to share and post information. As a result of these advocacy strategies, informal traders are engaging council and demanding better vending sites. In these dialogue spaces vendors have also called on the Bulawayo City Council to act on reported grievances.
Some issues that rile informal traders include overcrowding of vending sites and lack of toilets at sites that traders currently occupy. Some vendors that do have access to toilets close to their vending sites have passed complaints over the poor state of infrastructure and how the toilets pose health hazards.
Speaking to the BVTA Vendors Voice, Annoyance Musanhi said, “The lack of toilets in vending sites affects our operations. Customers hesitate to buy or do not buy at all because of the smell from the area. People relieve themselves at a nearby trench and there is obviously no place for them to wash their hands. This is unhygienic.”
Vendors have also vowed to confront Bulawayo City Council and push it to reduce exorbitant licence fees. Due to high vending licencing fees, most informal traders end up selling their wares illegally in undesignated sites. This results in violent raids by the Municipal Police and confiscation of goods, leading to loss of income and failure to fend for families.
The project continues to equip informal traders with knowledge of their rights and how they can meaningfully participate at local level decision making processes. BVTA will also continue imparting vendors with skills on advocacy and creating a number of accessible platforms for policy engagement between Bulawayo City Council and informal traders.