Zimbabwean vendors in Victoria Falls have urged the local authority to ensure that hawkers from Zambia respect the city’s by-laws.
A report by the Global Press Journal indicates that Zambian vendors have taken advantage of the reopening of the Zimbabwe-Zambia border to travel to Victoria Falls to sell fruits and vegetables.
The border was closed in 2020 as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Zambian vendors, popularly known as omzanga, a Nyanja term meaning “friend,” cross the Victoria Falls Bridge en route to Zimbabwe every morning to sell vegetables.
A local vendor, Sikhulile Ngwenya who has been in the business for 10 years, said she feels a constant threat and uncertainty looming over her livelihood.
The Zambian vendors reportedly sell their fruits and vegetables and low prices because they source their products from farms that are close to the border with Zimbabwe.
Their Zimbabwean counterparts are however, forced to sell at higher prices as they source their produce from places like Lupane, 264 kilometers (164 miles) away; Bulawayo, 435 kilometers (270 miles) away; and sometimes as far as Harare, 874 kilometers (543 miles) away.
Local vendors also must operate from their designated spots in the markets, and pay rentals to the Victoria Falls City Council, while the Zambian vendors can move door to door.
Ngwenya said she pays US$16 a month to the council. She said during the first lockdown, she made US$15 to US$25 a day, but now she makes US$10 to US$15 a day. Ngwenya said:
Because vendors sell door to door, our customers no longer visit the market.
This is now a threat to our livelihoods as we no longer sell much because residents would rather wait for the Zambian vendors sitting in their homes.
Grace Shoko, who is the vice chairperson of the Zambezi Informal Cross Border Traders Association (ZICBTA) accused Zambian vendors of “stealing” their customers.
ZICBTA was founded in late 2021 in Victoria Falls to resolve issues between local and Zambian traders.
Naomi, a Zambian vendor, said she prefers vending in Zimbabwe because she makes more money than when selling in Zambia because in Zimbabwe she sells in United State dollars.
She said when she converts her USD to Zambian kwacha back in her country, she gets a substantial amount.
Mercy Mushare, a member of the Mkhosana vendors association, said they have engaged the local authority to put in place bylaws that protect local vendors. She said:
We are not saying Zambians should not come and sell, but they should abide by the same bylaws which we abide by. They should not be at an advantage over locals.
Victoria Falls residents, however, fear that strict action against Zambian vendors might eventually hurt the common Zimbabwean as local vendors will most likely increase prices to pandemic levels.
More: Pindula News