It was business as usual for vendors in the streets of Harare on the first of May, a day that used to see people gathering at various venues around the country to commemorate workers day.
United Nations set aside the 1 May annually as international workers day but due to high levels of unemployment and the rise in the informal sector, such days in Zimbabwe have now become insignificant to the majority of people who do not relate to it as they are out of employment.
With the Zimbabwe economy shrinking significantly after 2000, the resultant effects have been closure of companies, job losses and inflation.
This gave rise to informal trading which has now spread to every corner of the country and with the government not keen on formalising this sector, they do not really feel they are playing any role in the economic development of the country, therefore they do not see themselves as workers.
In an interview with 263Chat, National Vendors Union Zimbabwe chairperson, Sten Zvorwadza said vendors do not see the reason to celebrate the international workers day since Zimbabwe’s constitution does not recognize them.
“The law to protect vendors remains a mystery and vendors for this reason do not find it worthwhile to workers day because the government continues to refuse to clarify as workers through legislation,” said Zvorwadza.
In his massage on worker’s day, opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai saluted those who are spending days in streets and hardworking trying to earn a living.
“Today, I join the world and the nation in commemorating this great day dedicated to celebrating the working community even though in our country, sadly, formal work has become a rarity. I salute you; to the men and women in the villages working hard to feed your families, you are my heroes; to the artisanal miners slugging it out beneath our soils and the farmers those tilling the land, we revere you; to all those of my countrymen and women in the Diaspora working hard to send a dime to the families back home; this is your day!
“Zimbabwe’s participation from 1998 to 2002 in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo set the stage for this deterioration by draining the country of hundreds of millions of dollars. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was a major problem from about 2003 to April 2009, when the country suspended its own currency. Zimbabwe faced 231 million percent peak hyperinflation in 2008. A combination of the abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar and a government of national unity in 2009 resulted in a period of positive economic growth for the first time in a decade.”
A vendor who requested anonymity said she cannot afford to attend celebrations for the workers day since it would a day’s sales missed.
“I know its workers day but I cannot afford to take a day off because I survive through selling. If I don’t sell it means I will not have food for my family that day since I am a widow,” she said adding that she is not happy with the way council police chase them off the streets.
In her speech at the national workers day commemorations in Chinhoyi, Labour Minister Prisca Mupfumira called on employers and employees to work with the Government.
“Government will not, and can never, forget its workers for they are at the very core of an empowered society which our economic blueprint (ZIMASSET) seeks to create.
“Government recognizes your sacrifice, discipline, perseverance, commitment and most importantly your patriotism and commitment to a better future for your families and ultimately for Zimbabwe,” she said.