WHILE the prevailing price stability is being welcomed by consumers and major businesses countrywide, small scale traders are struggling to keep afloat.
Business leaders across the divide have hailed the positive impact of the Government’s foreign currency auction market, which has seen the local dollar holding firmly at around 1:81 to the US-dollar for the past few months.
Coupled with tight money supply and stranglehold on illegal foreign currency dealings, there has been a lull in inflationary pressures, which economists say is good for business and restoring market confidence.
However, things are not rosy for the small-scale traders in the informal sector who are yet to recover from the losses incurred during the lengthy Covid-19 induced lockdown since March this year.
The executive director of the Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association, Mr Michael Ndiweni, told Business Chronicle that traders’ savings were wiped out and that without money to restock, their members had no viable business to talk about.
“Most traders were heavily affected by the lockdown as they spent most of their business savings and are now failing to restock,” he said in an interview.
“The stabilisation of the currency is now a pie in the sky. Traders are seeing opportunities but they cannot participate in the actual trading.”
A recent snap survey conducted in Bulawayo revealed that while fresh farm produce dealers were thriving those in processed food stuffs, clothing and hardware trading were finding the going tough. The informal traders said they were struggling to access forex to restock and claimed that some suppliers were now resist transactions in local dollars preferring hard currency.
“Only those of us with foreign currency are able to trade again. I was forced to shift focus and sell vegetables because I couldn’t afford dealing in clothing and electrical ware anymore,” said Mrs Monica Mangena, a trader at the Bulawayo 5th Avenue market. She alleged that scores of her peers registered with the City of Bulawayo were running daily battles with municipal police.
Mr Ndiweni concurred saying council was failing to meet its pledge to avail adequate vending bays and decongesting the city centre.
“Council promised to re-allocate trading areas as a way of decentralising markets to the townships but that is still to happen. Some of our members are constantly being chased out of town,” he said.
“Trading in the townships presents problems in that the council has not put up infrastructure such as shades, toilets, water taps to make sure that traders and buyers are safe as required by health standards outlined for Covid-19 prevention.”
The traders said while extension of trading hours has brought relief, other Covid-19 prevention requirements such as social distancing have meant that the size and space of trading areas were reduced.
“Now that there are few traders at a particular space, it means few business transactions as well. We pray that this pandemic fast disappears and we return to normalcy,” said Mr Ndiweni.