In a recent development, Gokwe Town Council has taken bold steps to enforce licensing requirements for vendors operating within the town’s jurisdiction. The move aims to regulate and formalize the vending sector to ensure orderly and safe business practices while fostering economic growth and enhanced service delivery.
With the increasing number of vendors operating in Gokwe, the town council recognizes the importance of implementing licensing as a means to streamline operations, address health and safety concerns, and ensure compliance with local regulations. The decision comes as part of the council’s broader strategy to improve the overall trading environment and secure the livelihoods of both vendors and consumers.
Gokwe Town Council’s move has garnered mixed reactions from vendors operating in the area. Some vendors have expressed their support, as formal licensing is perceived as an opportunity to gain legitimacy, build trust with customers, and access additional support and resources from the local government. Proponents also believe that licensing will help distinguish regulated vendors from informal operators, potentially attracting more customers and boosting sales.
Others have voiced concerns over the potential financial burden that licensing requirements may pose, especially for small-scale vendors who already operate on tight budgets. Additionally, fears of bureaucratic red tape and potential delays in obtaining licenses have been raised, prompting calls for the council to simplify the licensing process and ensure efficient service delivery.
“They chased us away in town. Unfortunately, we have no other employment. This is our only way to earn a living. The council has failed in its mandate to provide service delivery in town. They cannot even focus on the developmental project but rather prefer to attack us while chasing us away because we do not have licenses.
“In as much as we want to pay the licenses they are so expensive for us that we end up playing cat and mouse with the town policy. Some people end up paying bribes to the town policy for easy access to operations. Some of us are not even able to pay the bribe that they demand. Oftentimes they demand that we pay between $USD5 and $USD10 per day. For us, that amount is too much because per day we can work for that amount. So in other words we will just come and work for the town policy,” said Rolyn Maisa a vendor based at Choppies supermarket.
“…we should also look at the brighter side of licensing vendors. All these funds will be channeled towards the development of the town. Gokwe is a town that is developing, and some of us, want to see it being awarded the City status. For that to be possible we need to contribute towards the development of our town, and we can do this by paying our bills, paying our licenses, etc. We want to deal with the perception that Gokwe is still behind in terms of development. We want to see Gokwe becoming a great city. The Council should do its best in terms of monitoring and investigating bribery, and corruption cases against those failing to pay licenses,” remarked a businessman identified as Murwisa.
A Human Rights Watch official (name withheld) said, “…the government should halt the crackdown, and work with the vendors and their representatives on a comprehensive plan that would allow them to work while addressing the city’s concerns. The council should also hold those responsible for the violence to account and provide redress to the vendors.”
Police harassment and hijacking of street vendors’ goods has rapidly escalated from 29 August onwards with some saying there has been a crackdown on them because they voted for the opposition.
“…they are chasing us because people voted for CCC councilors only. It is a move to show the electorate that they voted for the wrong people. How do you explain a situation where the vendors were allowed to sell their products in town during the pre-election period without any hustles or crackdown to now when elections are over and now we are running cat and mouse with the city council police? The whole issue here is just about elections. People voted for the opposition councilors only, and now it is payback time,” said one vendor who pleaded for anonymity.
Former Gokwe Deputy Mayor Charity Mungwani said informal traders are regulated in terms of the hawkers and vendors by-laws, which demand that a business should first be registered before being allocated a designated trading site.
“Council being a law-abiding entity encourages traders to acquire licenses/permits for their businesses and operate from designated areas. However, ignorance and negligence have left many traders counting losses and exposed to selfish and corrupt officials,” she said.
Gokwe Town Council acting Secretary, Joseph Mandlokuwa highlighted that licenses are paid at the town council offices, and not to officers roaming the streets.
“It is either a trader is licensed or not and if they are licensed, then they pay their rentals straight at the council offices not patrolling officials. It is illegal for any of our officials to demand payment or bribes from traders and that should be reported,” he said.
Mandlokuwa added that businesses like car wash, and gas filling, among others, are not allowed to operate in residential areas because they involve the use of dangerous chemicals.
“We have designated areas for specific businesses, but most traders shun those spaces and prefer playing cat-and-mouse with authorities,” he said.
Leadmore Machinda Mtembedzi former councilor for Ward 3 Njelele said the vendors have designated places for them to sell their products, not everywhere in town.
“Vendors have their place which the town council designated for them to use. These are located at the back of the Spar building and near Profeeds shop and all greens are designated to the Craft Centre, not in Town. As far as I know, the town council has to tell them in a good manner not to use force and harassment
“Zimbabwe’s government should respect and protect the rights of all citizens, including street vendors. Harassing women who are struggling to survive as street vendors and bringing trumped-up charges against them is no way to treat Zimbabwe’s citizens. What the government needs to do is to work with the vendors to find a way for them to work freely and safely,” said Mtembedzi.
The implementation of licensing requirements for vendors in Gokwe marks a significant milestone in the town’s progressive agenda toward organized and regulated trade. With increased transparency, standardized business practices, and collective effort between vendors and the local council, Gokwe is set to create an enabling environment that benefits the entire community.
Vendors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the requirements and take the necessary steps to secure their licenses promptly. Through this initiative, Gokwe Town Council aims to foster a vibrant and sustainable vending sector that contributes to the town’s socio-economic development and enhances the overall well-being of its residents.