Mutare informal traders mull over cushion allowance disbursement, fear politicking gimmicks

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Mutare informal traders mull over cushion allowance disbursement, fear politicking gimmicks

A Murahwa (Green) Market coffin maker who is part of those informal traders affected by the 21-days shutdown and is expecting to benefit from the pronounced cushion allowance.

…Zanu-PF dismisses ‘scheming’ tricks allegations

Ngoni Dapira

DELAYS in the disbursement of the pronounced cushion allowance for traders in the Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and informal sectors are leading to rumour mills spreading in Mutare of ‘scheming’ gimmicks being brewed by the ruling Zanu-PF party. This is also rousing anger among intended beneficiaries in Mutare, Easterntimeszim has learnt.

It is now eight (8) days into the 21-days shutdown which began last week Monday to combat the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. So far in Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 epidemic has claimed two lives with 11 confirmed cases as of today (Tuesday). From a record of 9 cases confirmed by end of last week, the 10th case confirmed yesterday is a 24-year old female resident of Harare who arrived from the United Kingdom two weeks ago, whilst the 11th case which is now also the second death case, was confirmed today. It is a 79-year old male from Bulawayo who passed away on Saturday 4 April, after having been placed under clinical management for COVID-19 testing on April 2. Globally, the death toll from COVID-19 has now passed 70 000 according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while the number of infections have risen above 1.28 million.

Rumour mills have spread like a veld fire in Mutare that Zanu-PF ward representatives have been moving around in their respective wards registering party members in the high density suburbs for unspecified reasons. This has torched a conspiracy storm that Zanu-PF party members could be secretly assimilated as beneficiaries and prioritized under the vulnerable households cash transfer programme by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the loss of income for subsistence facility for SMEs and informal traders, which will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.

Mutare City Council spokesperson Spren Mutiwi last week revealed that 3298 informal traders was the official number of registered traders operating in their sites, who will in-turn receive the pronounced US$10 loss of income for subsistence facility for SMEs and informal traders. The programme will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development during the lockdown period.

Mutare’s Ward 2 councilor Elizabeth Tsoro said Zanu-PF ward representatives in her ward started registering their members last week Thursday. “A lot of people approached me because they were concerned about what the registration was all about and why it was being done for Zanu-PF members only, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government is currently collating a list of vulnerable households who will benefit from the various social assistance funds, so the coincidence is just too much. We smell a rat because Zanu-PF tends to do this during elections or when there are free funds from NGOs being distributed,” said Clr Tsoro who resides in Sakubva.

Mutare Mayor Clr Blessing Tandi said the rumour mills are true as he has been receiving reports from his councilors and in his own ward 14 in Chikanga.

“Names were being registered especially in locations (high density suburbs). I actually went to the DA’s (District Administrator’s) office today (Monday) to ask for a solution to this. People who were conducting this are people within party structures at ward level in Zanu-PF.  This began the very first day of the lockdown last week. In my ward they were registering youths, vendors and the elderly using party membership basis,” he said.

Mayor Tandi also cleared the air that as a local authority they had already submitted their list of the 3298 informal traders housed under them in their various sites in the city who will be beneficiaries US$10 loss of income for subsistence facility, which will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.

“I will also clear the air that we are not disbursing the funds. As a local authority we submitted our list of beneficiaries registered and operating at all our markets to the relevant Ministry spearheading the programme,” said the Mayor.

In a statement by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development issued last week Wednesday, it said Government responded to the COVID-19 concerns of people in the SMEs and informal sector by providing assistance to cushion them against loss of income for subsistence. Contact persons were designated by the Ministry in each province who have been collating information such as name, sex, ID number, address, ward and cell number of beneficiaries through the local authority and appropriate associations.

The designated person for Manicaland, Munyaradzi Rubaya said his instructions are clear and they will only take database information of beneficiaries from SMEs and informal sector associations, not individuals or political parties.

“I am not aware of any lists from any parties. The circular is very clear. It says SMEs and informal sector associations are the ones that are supposed to submit database of their members, not individuals. We have received data from the local authority and some associations and we are still collating data. I am however not able to tell you the current figures that we have until we are through collating,” said Rubaya.

Zanu-PF provincial secretary for administration Kenneth Saruchera dismissed the allegations of scheming and said the registration is part of their usual internal process to update their database. He said as the new dispensation party of Zanu-PF they agreed not interfere with Government programmes.

“The registration has nothing to do with the Government programmes. As a party we always update our database especially during such times. It is purely information collating and it will not interfere with Government programmes. As Zanu-PF we are in solidarity with the togetherness spirit in combating COVID-19 and this means any form of assistance to the general public should not be political,” said Saruchera.

Since the formation of the MDC party in 1999, the opposition movement has been in control of most of the country’s urban councils but service delivery has been deteriorating amid allegations of political interference by the Central Government, through Zanu-PF Local Government ministers, the likes of Ignatius Chombo who served the longest in the Ministry, Saviour Kasukuwere and recently July Moyo. This could explain why there have always been  continued efforts by the ruling party to try and sway people during national disaster opportunities, such as last year’s Elnino drought and now the COVID-19 epidemic, when people are susceptible and thinking only with their stomachs for food aid.

In 2007, Zimbabwe scrapped the position of executive mayor for urban councils. Ceremonial mayors now preside over urban councils. This means that since then Mayors direct the administrative structure, appointing and removing of department heads, while the council has legislative power, often controlled by the Minister. The Mayor has no veto power.

Sakubva Flea Market chairman Rudolf Muturika said he is now overwhelmed with calls daily from disgruntled flea market traders who have become doubtful and feel they have been sidelined. He said although they held a meeting with the local authority the weekend before the shutdown where they went through and confirmed the list of beneficiaries presented to them, they are surprised that it is still taking too long to get the money promised.

“Why is it taking long to process money to us. We are told that the funds are already there and what was needed was the database. We are now 8 days into the shutdown but the list was completed before the shutdown. We are struggling to cope and need the cushion allowance. This will eventually force agitated breadwinners to go out and hustle for money against the lockdown decree. But if we are given the cushion allowance, it will go a long way to help fend for our families during the shutdown,” said Muturika.

He however revealed that a lot of informal traders would be left out as some operated under registered individuals. Murahwa (Green) Market chairman Ernest Muchakuya also concurred that many had been left out as most people operated illegally under registered members.

“At Green Market I noticed we were around 90 registered, but on the ground you find that per stand there might be three or four others who trade there as sub-tenants or illegaly, so a lot of people will be left out. It’s unfortunate that they are unregistered under the local authority but this is the reality in the informal sector, a lot of people operate unregistered,” said Muchakuya.


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