The Member of Parliament for Goromonzi West this week said Zimbabwe needs leaders and not rulers and described rulers as people who did want they wanted without consulting the people.
Introducing a motion calling on the government to stop the harassment of women’s vendors, Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga, said the authorities should provide proper market sites for vendors especially women and should consult them instead of building markets which people did not want to use.
She cited as an example a market in Greencroft that was built five or six years ago but was never used.
“No one wants to be put on that corner where nobody comes to buy their wares. They will still move to undesignated places. So, we are urging the municipality and the government that whatever they do, there is need for broad consultation with the stakeholders. This idea of rulership where people just think they can do what they want should come to an end; we want leaders not rulers,” she said.
Nyamupinga also called on the police, both municipal and national, to respect women. She accused municipal police of extorting bribes and the Zimbabwe Republic Police of demanding sex from the vendors.
She played a recording of one of the women vendors saying: “My husband does not work so I had to start this business of selling. I used to sell in the location and I would get a US$1 per day, hence I decided to relocate to town. When I got into town, I discovered that the business was moving on well but there are some challenges. When I am selling in town during the afternoon, the municipal police would come and chase me. However, instead of them chasing me, I would give them US$5.00 and they will leave me to sell my goods until evening time. So, as a result, every day I will be giving the municipal police US$5 in order for me to sell and get something at the end of the day but when the ZRP comes, they just come and take my tomatoes for free and they will say ambuya tokusengai. So these are some of the challenges we are facing as women and we are appealing to the government that they should give us a place to sell our goods legally.”
She could not play the recording about a complaint against the police because the sound was poor. “There is no volume so I will give a summary of what the woman is saying. The issue that this woman is talking about is that sometimes when the police drag them to police stations or the municipal offices, they ask for sexual favours to let them go out. If they do not submit to that, they are asked to pay exorbitant fines. We are not sure whether these heavy fines are in the current by-laws or are Rhodesian by-laws. They take this woman at 9 am before she has sold anything and when she says she does not have any money, that is when they tell her that they love her and want to marry her. Surely, for me to sell my tomatoes, someone has to love and marry me! Someone has to have sex with me to enable me to be released from the police?
“Madam Speaker, this is a widow looking after her children and sending them to school through selling tomatoes. It is painful to sell. You wake up very early at 4am and go to Mbare. You are arrested at 9am and soon after, you are asked to have sex with the person who has arrested you. You are still very tired and wanting to make sales for the day to look after your children, I do not think what is happening is proper. I sincerely implore Government and City Council to respect women. It is amazing to hear that women are being abused in this manner, what then is happening to men? Men are neither abused nor arrested…”
HARRASSMENT OF WOMEN INFORMAL TRADERS AND VENDORS BY CITY AUTHORITIES
MRS. NYAMUPINGA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House:
- COGNISANT of the economic challenges and high levels of unemployment currently facing the country;
- CONCERNED by the death and injury of female vendors and their children as a result of raids by Municipal Police in urban centres particularly in Central Business District;
- NOW THEREFORE, resolves that Government; designates areas for the construction of vending stalls in prime marketing areas in the CBDs; and regulates vending activities by the introduction of vendors’ licences.
MRS. MATIBENGA: I second.
MRS. NYAMUPINGA: Madam Speaker, allow me to address this august House on the important motion concerning the ill-treatment of women informal trading by the city authorities and municipality police. Historically Madam Speaker, in high income countries, participation in the formal economy has been the most important route to women’s empowerment and created gender equality. The cost of gender inequality in the formal economy is high, especially in developing countries. With increasing globalisation, they are also rising. It is disturbing to note that in Zimbabwe, women informal traders and vendors who have dared to engage in buying and selling activities in urban areas and central district centres of different cities to earn a decent living and fend for their families have been subjected to brutal harassment, arbitrary arrest and literally battering by the municipal police officers, particularly in Harare.
This has been going on unquestioned for a long time and with impunity on the part of municipal police. The ill-treatment of women in this manner is not in line with our gender policies and laws. Therefore, it should be integrated and addressed as a matter of urgency. The Government and local authorities should take the hid to urgency. The Government and local authorities should take heed of the urgency.
Madam Speaker, I am repeating this because I would want the municipal police and Government to take heed of this urgency. The Government, rather than harassing women entrepreneurs in the informal sector, whose aim is to generate income for their households under very difficult circumstances, is it not time to reflect on how best to assist our women join the mainstream formal economy.
Employment in the informal sector for many developing countries is no longer a journey but has become a destination for many, especially women. If the aim is to create jobs and reduce poverty in the informal sector, it must be included in the national policies and laws.
Madam Speaker, allow me to preface my presentation by referring to international and regional instruments in which the Government is a signatory, which calls upon member countries to promote women economic empowerment. The need for achievement of women, socioeconomic progress were spelt out in the international and regional declarations such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW 1975; the Convention on the Right of the Child (1989), Beijing the Conventions on the Rights of the Child (1989), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), and the Africa Union (2004) Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA). The 2011, Human Development Report confirms that in Sub- Saharan Africa, full and decent employment remains a challenge for many women obliged to work in low-paying jobs, women were poorly represented outside agriculture with only 36% of them working in non-agricultural sectors. Women constitute a disproportionate segment of the unemployed and they work in poor conditions. Over the years, the United Nations, through the UNDP, UNIFEM now UN women, have been facilitating advancement of Women’s economic empowerment through the following initiatives:
- Advocating for increased recognition;
- Reduction of redistribution of women unpaid care work;
- Supporting research of customary law and help women gain access to land;
- Participate in decision making form and
- Supporting women entrepreneurship through training in production skills and techniques, business management and functional literacy.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development ratified by Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2010, Chapter 4.0, articles 15 to 19 provides that the state parties shall, by 2015, adopt policies and enact laws which ensure equal access, benefits and opportunities for women and men in trade and entrepreneurship, taking into account the contributions in the formal and informal sectors.
According to the SADC Gender Protocol 2013: Barometer Zimbabwe, a large percentage of women are allocated in economically inactive population. In fact, women are said to constitute 63% of the economically inactive group compared to 37% for men. The revised National Gender Policy, 2013 to 2017 notes that women’s economic empowerment is a key to the country’s economic growth. The 2013 Budget Statement put focus on women economic empowerment promising to give priorities to policies which advance women in development and gender balance in economic activities, considering existing gaps in economic development. These are national policies which should inform by-laws passed and enforced by our local bodies such as Harare City Council.
Madam Speaker, I am surprised that we are still using by-laws that were used by Rhodesians, where you find a municipal police will go at a place where women are selling illegally, instead of implementing policies that are there, they decided to revert back to the Rhodesian policies where they would just drag a woman by her dress or her skirt. They drag them around, sometimes they would just hold their breasts or just any physical abuse that they will think of using at that particular time, so that they instill fear into these women and they will not demand for their rights. Their goods are taken to the police station, we do not know and we have never seen where all these things are auctioned, they take goods such as tomatoes and mazhanje. Honestly, if there are things to be auctioned, how can you keep perishable goods for auction? Surely, these things are being shared amongst themselves and they will take them home.
Madam Speaker, with your indulgence, I have got some audio of some women who had been dragged around by the police and they have been saying it to different organisations that represent them. Therefore, I would like the House to listen to some of these audios:-
“*THE WOMAN: ‘My husband does not work so I had to start this business of selling. I used to sell in the location and I would get a US$1 per day, hence I decided to relocate to town. When I got into town, I discovered that the business was moving on well but there are some challenges. When I am selling in town during the afternoon, the municipal police would come and chase me. However, instead of them chasing me, I would give them US5.00 and they will leave me to sell my goods until evening time. So, as a result, every day I will be giving the municipal police US$5 in order for me to sell and get something at the end of the day but when the ZRP comes, they just come and take my tomatoes for free and they will say ambuya tokusengai. So these are some of the challenges we are facing as women and we are appealing to the Government that they should give us a place to sell our goods legally.”
Madam Speaker, this is one of them, I have heard many people complaining that there is so much disorder in all urban cities because of these vendors but they are also requesting designated places where they can sell their goods. When the City Council designates these areas, it should not be outside the city where there is no passing trade. This will result in the vendors moving and they will start selling illegally.
I would suggest Madam Speaker, that when the Government decides to construct the vending stores for the vendors, there is need for bottom-up approach where they will actually consult extensively to these stakeholders and identify an agreed place which they will designate for these people to sell their goods. If they do not do that, the people will still leave those places and the vicious circle will not stop. They will go wherever they will think they are going to sell and make money because they are not leaving their homes in these cold chilly mornings to come and sit at a place where they will not sell anything.
We were surprised, Madam Speaker, when the municipality decided to build a vending market at Greencroft some 5/6 years ago , I have passed through that road, that vending market has never been used. No one wants to be put on that corner where nobody comes to buy their wares, they will still move to undesignated places. So, we are urging the municipality and the Government that whatever they do, there is need for broad consultation with the stakeholders. This idea of rulership where people just think they can do what they want should come to an end; we want leaders not rulers.
Madam Speaker, it is against this background that the continued harassment of these informal traders and vendors in our cities should be viewed. When I am talking about harassment of vendors, it is coming from my heart because my constituency is actually made up of only horticulture farmers and they come into town. If we go to Fourth Street now, all those people who are spreading their vegetables, most of them are coming from Domboshava or some places in Mashonaland East Province. Hazvitinakidze, Madam Speaker, kuona vachizvuzvurudzwa, matomatoes achipwanyirwa pasi. It is not good for our people. We all know that these days the economy is very difficult for our people to earn a living. At least they are not going to steal but they are putting an effort to show that they can do something.
How come the Government does not complement the efforts that they are demonstrating that they can at least do something? Of course, yes they are spreading all over and some businessmen are saying, ‘we are paying rent but these people are just coming in front of my shop to sell their goods.’ Yes, it might be wrong but do we have the places in the cities for them to sell, let alone toilets, so they will go and group themselves at least where they will get ablutions. I would like to pose a question which I hope will be answered one day. Since independence, how many toilets have we built in Harare? We have not built any. So, for them to just go and sell anywhere, all of them will come and congest at fourth street because that is where the infrastructure will be. If they try to go somewhere else in the town centre, the toilets there are locked and people are asked to pay a $1 to use the toilet.
I am sure you heard that woman saying she works for a dollar the whole day. Can she work the whole day to pay for a toilet and then go home with nothing? Madam Speaker, there is need for Government to take this issue very seriously because we do not want to end up thinking that because the biggest percentage of vendors are women, that is why this issue is being ignored.
I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the city authorities to reflect on the best way forward and to also look at other solutions that I have given, such as regularising new premises for our women vendors. I am not saying we do not care for the other vendors, but I am specifically talking about women because they are the ones who gave us reports of abuse and many questions that they have been asked. If I play another audio here, you will actually want to cry after hearing some of the things that are happening on the streets.
*There is no volume so I will give a summary of what the woman is saying. The issue that this woman is talking about is that sometimes when the police drag them to police stations or the municipal offices, they ask for sexual favours to let them go out. If they do not submit to that, they are asked to pay exorbitant fines. We are not sure whether these heavy fines are in the current by-laws or are Rhodesian by-laws. They take this woman at 9 am before she has sold anything and when she says she does not have any money, that is when they tell her that they love her and want to marry her. Surely, for me to sell my tomatoes, someone has to love and marry me! Someone has to have sex with me to enable me to be released from the police?
Madam Speaker, this is a widow looking after her children and sending them to school through selling tomatoes. It is painful to sell. You wake up very early at 4am and go to Mbare. You are arrested at 9am and soon after, you are asked to have sex with the person who has arrested you. You are still very tired and wanting to make sales for the day to look after your children, I do not think what is happening is proper. I sincerely implore Government and City Council to respect women. It is amazing to hear that women are being abused in this manner, what then is happening to men? Men are neither abused nor arrested-[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-
THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order hon. members, could you please listen to what the hon. member is saying because this is a very important debate and we want to hear what she is saying.
*MRS. NYAMUPINGA: Thank you Madam Speaker for your protection. Men are not arrested, neither are they taken to the police station. Every time you see people being taken to the police station, they will only be carrying women. They chase them around, even those with children on their backs. They keep them there until they succumb to what they want. If you refuse, they will take all your wares. I do not think Government is doing a good thing towards these women. I would like the issue to be scrutinised. I am actually happy that our Minister for Gender is in the House. I am sure she will raise the issue just like she did on the issue of Gender Based Violence. There is need for war to be declared on this issue.
THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order! Can the hon. member stick to one language because there is no interpretation.
MRS NYAMUPINGA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I just want Government to take this issue very seriously because our women are being abused, whether they try to do good by working for their families, they get abused. They go on the streets and they get abused. So, sometimes they end up confused and as a result, you end up seeing most women on the streets. They try to do a good thing and they are abused for doing the right things. We want to see our women being empowered by being given designated places where they can sell without being harassed. They should be able to pay for licences so, the licence fees should be affordable to most women.
Government and the Municipality will make money from a broader base of women. If they however, hike the fees, they will not make more money and will fail to improve the services of those market places. If they get more money, they can also afford to build presentable ablutions and not those that are obsolete.
Things are changing. So, let us also move with the times even for our own vendors. In other countries, we know that women are the ones who actually contribute most to the GDP. In this country, however, we tend to ignore the women, hence the reason why they keep their monies at home. That is why they will never bank their monies. If they were to be taken seriously, even being given loans by banks without collateral, women are known for honouring their dues. They are not like men who will con and start running away but they do not get anything from the banks. We are never given loans Madam Speaker. If most of these women sitting in the streets are to walk into a bank, they will be asked for title deeds. How do you expect a person selling on a small scale to produce title deeds? Where does she get them from?
Why does Government not come up with a solution to that problem or come up with a policy where women can also access these small funds, to do these small businesses, micro managed business that they can manage with their own with small funds and they can always return the funds to the bank. That is why during the Budget process, as Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, you heard us making a lot of noise to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development that the Women’s Fund should have been increased. The Community Development Fund should have been increased because under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is where we find the majority of the people. But surprisingly, you find that sometimes they are given US$2m and what do they do with US$10m against ten provinces with so many districts. It means there is no seriousness. Even when we are looking at the Budget, there is no gender budgeting at all. We are not even mainstreaming gender in the Budget. We are just saying these are women and do not take them seriously “vakadzi havana basa”. I am sorry Madam Speaker, but I had to say that phrase in Shona because that is the way people usually say it.
We are imploring the Government to take this issue seriously to make sure that women get loans and designated places where they can sell and get their licences so that those who do not comply with the law, should be hunt down by the police in the streets. Even if they find them in a room or undesignated places, there is no need to use physical power dragging them around. There are policies that we can follow and use. There is no need to drag them by their skirts, touching their breasts, doing all sorts of things because I have all these complaints on video. I am talking about things that I have evidence of. I am not just saying things to make this House laugh. I am serious when I am talking about these issues because they are real and are happening on the ground.
I am urging this House to support this motion so that when Government gets funding, they make sure that the stalls for women vendors have been put at the places where the stakeholders have been consulted and agreed to and not just to say, now we have put the stalls, they are not using them, they are running away from them. Yes, they will run away because they want somewhere where they can make business. They are not just coming to display their wares and themselves at the stalls where they are not making business.
There is no country where you can go and not find the informal sector. I have gone to the Far East and I have been to Thailand. From 8am to 5pm, the formal sector is doing business. When they close – because there is bright lighting all over, the informal traders now come in and set their stalls so that the tourists and other people who were busy during the day have got time to go and buy from the informal sector. Here, if you want to do that, there is no lighting. We need a lot of lighting so that those women who want to remain selling and waiting for workers who have been working the whole day, can also do that.
During the weekends in Thailand, you will find that on Sundays, formal stalls do not open and informal ones get designated places where they can also come and put their wares and start selling. If we are not going to accommodate and give them time to trade on their own without the formal sector being there, they will keep on making stalls wherever they think is possible. The Government is the one that has caused disorder in the city because if they want to put order today by just making sure that the policies that are in place are used properly and stalls have been put in the right places agreed to by stakeholders, it will not take time to make sure that the city is orderly and the informal sector is given a chance to make its own money and everyone lives in harmony in Zimbabwe. I thank you.