VISET programmatic thrust is centered on, among other things the following;
1. Organizing vendors into Socio-Economic Champions (SOCHAMPs) across the country.
2. Building the capacities of SOCHAMPs to engage solution holders on issues affecting them and to do business profitably.
3. Enhancing vendor’s access to profitable markets and capital
4. Improving vendors’ access to psycho-social services.
5. Creating platforms for engagement between vendors, solution holders and other relevant stakeholders.
6. Conducting research on the ongoing trends in the vending fraternity to facilitate evidence based advocacy.
7. Providing safety nets to vendors to cushion them from adverse consequences of human rights violations that occur in the enterprise.
1. Vendors Action for Constitutional Reform Project (VACRE)
VISET implemented the Vendors Action for Constitutional Reform (VACRE) project from 2016 to 2017 whose aim was to strengthen the ability of vendors in Harare and Zaka (Masvingo Province) to demand accountable governance from their solution holders. Specifically, the project trained 2075 vendors on socio-economic rights, tools for social accountability and transparency. The two major objectives of the initiative were to increase access by vendors to information on socio-economic rights, tools for social accountability and transparency by December 2016 and to create platforms of engagement between the vendors and their solution holders by May 2017.
Key activities under the VACRE project included production of IEC materials on socio-economic rights, conducting training on socio-economic rights, leadership, tools for social accountability and transparency for the vendors, supporting cascading trainings by the trained vendors to their fellow vendors, conducting socio-economic rights awareness campaigns, conducting advocacy activities that includes marches, dialogue meetings with solution holders, petitions and proposing an alternative on national policy on vending. The project was successful in meeting most of its set targets and has impacted positively on its intended beneficiaries.
VACRE Success Story
Before the implementation of VACRE, the vendors in Harare and Zaka did not have knowledge of the constitutional social and economic rights. The baseline report conducted prior to the implementation of VACRE revealed these knowledge gaps. They did not know how to hold their leaders accountable and to demand transparency from them. (90% of the respondents were not aware of their constitutional social and economic rights) As a result of this ignorance, the vendors did not seek appropriate remedies whenever their rights were violated. VACRE filled these knowledge gaps through training the vendors on constitutional social and economic rights, tools for social accountability and transparency and leadership.
VISET was featured in the TellZimbabwe paper highlighting the SOCHAMPs trainings that were conducted in Zaka.
The vendors in Harare and Zaka are now aware of their constitutional social and economic rights and are equipped with skills on tools for social accountability and transparency. The trained vendors in Harare and Zaka have begun to demand accountable governance from their solution holders. In Zaka, the trained SOCHAMPs have already petitioned Council demanding a reduction of vending rates, the construction of sheds on their vending sites, water. VACRE created platforms of engagement between the vendors and their solution holders through the dialogue meetings between the vendors, the CSOs and the government. Through these platforms, the vendors were for the first time able to interact with their local leadership that include, in the case of Zaka, the Council Chairperson and in the case of Harare, the Mayor. The platforms also brought the Council Committees on Informal Sector to roundtable discussions with vendors and accorded the vendors the opportunity to air their grievances to them.The vendors are aware of who their duty bearers are and are able to hold them accountable and to demand transparency and rights from them. Sustainable platforms of engagement between the vendors and their solution holders have been created in Harare and Zaka.
SOCHAMPS in Harare and Zaka, have begun to conducting clean up campaigns to sensitize fellow vendors on their right to a clean environment in line with Section 73 of the constitution. They invited their duty bearers such as EMA and Council Representatives from the Health Departments to participate in these campaigns and take advantage of their attendance to air their grievances. In Harare, the Mayor requested at one of the engagement meetings that the vendors submit a dossier to him detailing all the issues that the vendors thought required his immediate attention and the dossier has since been submitted.
2. Crisis Response Campaign ( TCRIRCA)
VISET ran a Tyhpoid Crisis Response Campaign in collaboration with the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) as an addendum to the VACRE project from February 2017 to May 2017. The campaign was necessitated by the government’s proposed ban of all vending activities in Harare Central Business District following the outbreak of Typhoid which was blamed on vending activities. The campaign successfully enabled the vendors to engage the authorities to reconsider the ban, educate the public on prevention and management of infections as well as develop a self-regulating mechanism that promote responsible citizenship and trading among citizens and vendors.
Overally, the Typhoid Crisis Response Campaign aimed at creating a comprehensive and participatory public health mechanism that stops the outbreak and spread of Typhoid. Specifically, the campaign sought to:
• Facilitate public debate and engagement on the current Typhoid crisis.
• Sensitize the vendors on the importance and mechanisms of working in clean and hygienic environment.
• Propose and develop mechanisms for self-regulation of vendors and other SME traders.
• Co-ordinate civil society efforts in mitigating the outbreak and spread of typhoid.
Typhoid Crisis Response Campaign Success Story
In January 2017, following the outbreak of typhoid which had claimed two lives and infected several people in Mbare, the government blamed its outbreak on vending activities and as such issued a ban on all food vending activities in Harare Central Business District. The ban could have left thousands of vendors without livelihoods and could have resulted in untold suffering amongst thousands of vendors and their dependants.
VISET mobilized the vendors to resist the eviction from their vending sites and to ignore the ban as it violated their right to livelihood, food, life, work, trade and many other constitutional social and economic rights. VISET also, in collaboration with CHRA, coordinated and mobilized relevant civil society organizations that include ZADHR, CHITREST, ZCIEA and TIZ to publicly condemn the ban. It also challenged the ban at the High Court and won an interdict to stop the eviction of the vendors from their vending sites
There was strong and coordinated civil society response against the ban of food vending in Harare Central Business District. The vendors resisted the eviction. The court granted an interdict to stop the evictions
3. Viset Alternative National Policy on Vending
The current government policies and by laws that govern street vending in particular and the informal sector in general are outdated and not in sync with the present macroeconomic environment where the majority of Zimbabwe’s employable population is working in the informal sector. They lacks an acceptance of vendors as micro-entrepreneurs who, if adequately and appropriately supported, can grow their businesses and contribute to the development of national economy.
VISET, after conducting nationwide consultations with vendors the organisation, drafted an Alternative National Policy on Vending whose objective is to provide and promote a supportive environment for earning livelihoods by the Street vendors, as well as ensure absence of congestion and maintenance of hygiene in public spaces and streets. After the launch of the Policy, VISET submitted the Policy to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small to Medium Enterprise Development Chairperson Hon Dorothy Mangami and to the Mayor of Harare, Cllr Ben Manyenyeni
The Mayor of Harare accepted that the present Policy Council is using is outdated and that which VISET is proposing is much more broader, inclusive and responsive to the present macro-economic circumstances. He pledged to use his power and influence in Council to get it adopted. The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development pledged to urged organization arrange a meeting between VISET and the full Committee on so as to ensure that every member of the committee is well versed with the proposals being put forward by VISET before they can start pushing for its adoption or the amendment of the existing one by the Ministry.
4. Graduate and Postgraduate Vendors Empowerment Project (GRAPEVINE)
Graduate and Postgraduate Vendors Empowerment Project is an initiative meant to facilitate the access by poor and marginalized talented young men and women in the vending community to profitable markets, skills and finance so that they can grow their businesses. It is meant to demonstrate to the government, the private sector, corporate world, civil society and all the relevant stakeholders that vendors are micro-entrepreneurs or small businessmen/women, who, if granted adequate and appropriate support, can actually grow their businesses and become macro-entrepreneurs. The project is a result of VISET’s worrying realization that there is a massive increase in the number of graduate and post graduate vendors as a result of the failure by the economy to absorb these talented young men and women into the formal job market.
4.1 Research: Graduate Vendors
A quantitative research conducted by the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) in the two major cities of Zimbabwe revealed shocking statistics about graduate and post graduate vendors in Zimbabwe. Many graduates from Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions have lost hope of ever getting formal employment, as the economy continues to shrink. It is estimated that over 300 000 students are churned out of schools, colleges and universities every year to join millions already unemployed.
In a three months survey conducted between February and April 2016 in Harare and Bulawayo, VISET has identified 2187 graduate and post-graduate street vendors, a figure which is almost equivalent to the annual number of graduates produced by the University of Zimbabwe. Of this number, 381 have post graduate qualifications, while 1092 are females. Approximately 75 percent of them have never been formally employed. Asked if they would have chosen to become vendors if opportunities of formal employment have been availed to them, none of the respondents’ answers were in the affirmative. The average time the interviewed graduate vendors have been seized with a trade which otherwise would not have been of their choice is 5 years.
5. Customer Service Excellence Training (CUSET)
To economically transform vendors’ livelihoods, VISET implemented a project called Customer Service Excellence Training (CUSET) in October 2015 in Harare which equipped the vendors with Business Management Skills including such skills Customer Communications, Principles of Customer Care, Customer and Consumer Rights and Entrepreneurship. A lesson drawn from CUSET was that vendors are entrepreneurs who, if granted adequate and appropriate support including training, access to finances and profitable markets, etc, can grow their businesses and become macro-entrepreneurs.
6. Juvenile Vendors Upliftment Initiative Project
The Juvenile Vendors Upliftment Initiative Project which VISET is implementing identifies juvenile vendors with the view to assisting them to enjoy their constitutional right to education and protection from child labor. At VISET we believe education is the most sustainable way of empowering young people. The project, by seeking to enable juvenile vendors to obtain education, it will achieve a milestone in empowering these juvenile vendors in a sustainable way and this has a direct benefit not only to their families but the community at large.
6.1 Research: Juvenile Vendors
Furthermore, the organaisation, is conducting an ongoing statistical research into the magnitude of the problem of child or juvenile vending in growth points, major towns and cities in Zimbabwe. The report covers the period between the 26th 0f January 2016 and the 21st of December the same year. The research is a result of VISET’s worrying realization that there is a massive increase in the number of juvenile vendors as a result of the failure by their parents or guardians to raise school fees for their education. The research was conducted under the Juvenile Vendors Upliftment Initiative (JUVUFI) arm of the organization. JUVUFI is a platform within VISET that was created in October 2015 to provide support to families of juvenile street vendors with a view to raising their household incomes so that they can be able to remove their children from the streets and send them to school. The project targeted the following areas: Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Beitbridge, Masvingo, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Chivhu
7. Other Achievements and Interventions
VISET, working in collaboration with ZCIEA is assisting the ZHRC in trying to find a lasting solution to the impasse between the Government on one hand and the vendors on the other. VISET learnt from this process that the human rights violations perpetrated on the vendors have reached a worrisome magnitude and that only an all stakeholders approach can address the challenge.
In 2015, VISET partnered with the Zimbabwe Peace Project in identifying, documenting and publishing human rights violations in the vending sector. VISET is also running a campaign called “Clean Streets – Clean Zimbabwe Campaign” which educates vendors on the importance of working in clean environs.
In April 2017, VISET in collaboration with Transparency International Zimbabwe held a Corruption and Accountability Worshop in Harare at Bananai Gardens in a bid to synergize efforts at fighting corruption in the informal sector. The meeting culminated in the blending of SOCHAMPS and AMCs into Corruption Resistance Teams (CRTs). CRTs are located in Hopley, Chitungwiza and Epworth and they will be capacitated through training to detect, document, report and resist corruption in their respective constituencies. They are also anticipated to cascade this training down to their fellow community members. The convergence is one of the many programmatic areas in which VISET and TIZ will collaborate.
VISET has created several strategic partnerships with civil society organizations including ERC, ZPP, ZCIEA, CHRA, CHITREST, LEDRIZ, TIZ, ZYWNP, ZLHR and these partnerships have assisted it to remain active without direct institutional funding. It has already entered into an MOU with CHRA in a bid to synergize efforts in demanding social and economic justice from government, to hold it accountable, and to make it exercise its duties in line with the dictates of constitutionalism.