Kwekwe residents together with some Civic Society Organisations which include the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) amongst others have castigated Kwekwe City Council’s (KCC) ultimatum targeting illegal tuck shops.
In a letter written by the acting Director of Health Services Patricia Shumba, and received by this publication, KCC has advised tuck shop owners operating illegally to demolish their structures or face the wrath of what is to come.
“I wish to inform all illegal tuck shop and gas cage owners within the City of Kwekwe to demolish and remove their illegal structures by 29 June 2022, failure of which your illegal structures will be demolished by the council without further notice,” read the letter.
This did not do well with Kwekwe residents who are complaining about the City Council’s ignorance of the fact that the economic situation in the country has left the majority clueless about what they can do in order to survive. Tuck shops have been a go-to business of survival for the majority, especially in the ghetto of Amaveni and Mbizo where they have become rampant.
Some residents have laid the blame on the councilors stating that they are incompetent and do not know how to represent their wards at the council house. Lovemore Phiri, a tuck shop owner in Mbizo stated that his business was assisting him in paying the bills and if he demolishes it, then there will be a challenge.
This is an insane decision by the City Council, how do they expect us to pay the tariffs? This business enables me to cover the electricity and water bills, it is not even sufficient for me to cover everything here at home, but at least I am able to cover all the tariffs, so if I demolish it how am I going to cover all those things? Our councilors also have a problem, we send them to represent us at the council during meetings where these things are discussed but they are incompetent and do not even think about us, as the resident, it is a shame,” he said.
“Something must be done to save struggling citizens. Destroying their means of survival is not the solution. Surely as Kwekwe we can do better than this, people are struggling to make ends meet. People are running from corner to corner trying to put food at the table, but it is not easy. There is a need for the Council to come up with a lasting solution that will benefit both parties involved in this issue because the ailing of the economy has left many people wondering about how they are going to survive these harsh conditions,” said Faith Manyunyire who owns hardware at Mbizo 4 shopping center.
Kwekwe Residents Association Secretary Queenly Chitopo said that there is a need for the City Council to involve all the relevant stakeholders in decision-making before partaking in an action that may cause harm to the majority of the residents.
“As Residents Association we regard this as assassination to the community of Kwekwe. There was no consultation with the Residents to get their opinion and map a way forward regarding those with tuck shops. Council cannot just wake up from the blues, and demolish our structures without any alternative although there is a need for proper accountability and transparency. They should also put into consideration the vulnerable women, children, and youths who will suffer because of this exercise. There is a need for participation from all stakeholders before this disastrous action is put in place,” she said.
Speaking during a virtual platform for ZIMCODD, Spencer Gochai a social-economic justice advocate said that, the time frame which was given to the affected groups was short and worrisome.
“We acknowledge that the mushrooming of gas cages all over the length and breadth of the Kwekwe Community is a cause for concern with regards to the observation of safety measures, however, the tuck shops do not pose any danger to the community but continue to be a means of livelihood for the majority of the Kwekwe population in the face of a harsh economic environment characterized by closure of industry and escalating unemployment rate. I urge the local authorities to come up with a framework that seeks to regularise the operation of tuck shops as opposed to the proposed demolitions,” he said.
Speaking in an interview with this reporter the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) Chairperson Priscilla Mashinya condemned KCC for failing to consider that citizens are just coming out of the covid-19 lockdown era, and are still trying to find means of surviving.
“This step will completely set back the lives of many. Families will suffer. The right to food and many other rights will be affected. There is a need to create alternative places for these people to operate from, before destroying their only sources of income. As ZimRights we hope that this will be put into consideration before drastic steps are taken,” she said.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) Kwekwe Chapter Chairperson Rosewitter Matsveru said that demolishing the tuck shops is not a better way in this current situation.
“It is apparent that this move will affect the livelihoods of women, and children as they constitute over 70 percent of vendors in this town. As WCOZ we are calling upon KCC authorities to consider the plight of women, and children who are trying to survive under the prevailing harsh economic environment. The local authority should be responsible, and build proper operating places or vending stalls that enable people to pay levies while generating stable livelihoods,” she said.
The Kwekwe City Council notice comes at a time when fuel price has risen forcing the prices of basic commodities to shoot up. Tuck shop owners are trying to irk a living, but with this ultimatum, it might be difficult for the majority to survive the economic woes facing the country.