Zimbabwean churches under the Churches Convergence on Conflict & Peace (CCoCP) banner met with representatives from Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) in Harare last Friday to model a possible way of working together in lobbying for the regularisation of informal traders.
In an interview with Hallelujah Magazine on the sidelines of the meeting, ZCIEA Secretary-General Wisborn Malaya said the engagement with the church was behindhand.
“Today’s meeting was quite productive, and this partnership with the church is important. Actually, it was long overdue. It is good and important, for a solid reason, that the organisations working on the ground in communities and facing the challenges that people in the informal economy are facing find each other on areas of common interest.
We are trying to have a dialogue and advocate that the government address the challenges faced by the informal economy and the church comes in to support that initiative, understanding that those working in the informal sector are the same people who go to church every Sunday. The church has a role to bring issues to the table and also make the government understand the issues that affect its citizens,” said Malaya.
Established in 2002, ZCIEA is a national membership-driven organisation representing informal traders associations of Zimbabwe. It comprises self-employed and informal employees engaged in small unregistered or unincorporated enterprises and undeclared workers.
The objective of the alliance is to obtain recognition of and respect for the informal economy as a key component of Zimbabwe’s national economy and to promote the rights of workers in the informal economy.
But Malaya said it was a long journey to get to a Zimbabwe where there was a complete halt to the harassment and criminalisation of informal economy workers such as vendors and trades, and particularly to the destruction of their livelihoods.
“The issue of the recognition of the informal economy is a long journey. This is the major issue which is currently at the table. Our government is beginning to appreciate that the informal economy plays a role. We have a lot of studies which have proved that to be correct. Actually, I can even share that so far in the world, Zimbabwe is 3rd largest in terms of people who are trading in the informal economy and we have 76.5% of our people working in the informal economy. So the government really recognises that the workers in the informal economy are there and they contribute a lot to the country’s GDP, which is currently at 48%.
But we still have a challenge for that big issue where there should be that regularisation, where there is a law which then protects and incorporate them to be part of a simplified formal setup. There are still some components of criminalisation. No wonder you still hear harassment, some arrests taking place. So, this is the major thing we are trying to push to say the government should reconsider and change those things through the law,” he said.
Among many other things, ZCIEA has been advocating for partnership with local authorities for the provision of appropriate facilities and trading areas for vendors and traders, that give them access to their customers and markets, the inclusion of representatives of the informal economy in all policy-making bodies where policies affecting the informal economy are made and development by Government of a national strategy on the informal economy that recognises its economic and social importance to the nation.
Quite hopeful and delighted about the CCoCP’s engagement, the Secretary-General said they were looking forward to solidarity community outreaches.
“We are on the verge of considering some synergies in some areas of common interests, like community engagement, awareness-raising campaigns on the issues of informal economy and regularisation and also engagement with the government arms in terms of them also pushing that agenda to accommodate the operation of the informal economy.”
CCoCP Projects Officer Elder Shadrack Chaparadza expressed thrill over the meeting with ZCIEA, saying the church was ready to lend support in lobbying.
“It was a powerful meeting in the sense that as CCoCP, we have been grappling with some of the issues that ZCIEA alluded to. In the meeting, we had our District Coordinators from the four principal areas of Harare: Chitungwiza, Epworth, Hatcliffe and Kuwadzana. Central to the issues that really concern them from their areas are issues to do with informal traders, informal sectors, the criminalisation thereof and the absence of a regulatory framework to bring sanity to this sector yet the sector contributes significantly to the GDP.
Our argument is that it can only save Zimbabwe if we recognize this sector and give it the necessary support it deserves. As far as the church is concerned, we are more than happy to find synergies with ZCIEA and move the agenda forward. They have come up with a number of issues that they have already done and we think we can lend support to lobby,” he said.
Churches Convergence on Conflict and Peace (CCoCP) is a consortium of church-related organizations self-tasked to foster peace at grass-root level in Zimbabwe. The initiative is made up of the Bishop Ancelimo Magaya-led Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD), Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJP) and Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF).
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