A majority of informal traders, particularly vegetable vendors in Victoria Falls have reportedly given up on the trade with some relocating to rural areas due to loss of business as a result of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Whilst President Emmerson Mnangagwa has allowed vegetable and fruit vendors to operate as one of the key essential services, traders have found the operating environment tough as they either cannot travel to restock or have no customers to buy their goods.
With limited movement as part of the lockdown rules, most residents now prefer to buy from local supermarkets which open until 4.30 pm daily.
“Few people are visiting the vegetable markets,” said Agnes Nyathi, one of the vendors at the once-popular Chinotimba vegetable market.
She said since the lockdown, one can spend the whole day without selling any product.
“On a good day before the lockdown, you could sell goods of between US$10 and US$20, but nowadays, getting a single dollar is a bonus,” she said.
“Many have given up and some have even gone to the rural areas as they could not bear this.”
Many Victoria Falls residents are from surrounding villages in Jambezi, Ndlovu, Matetsi, Chisuma, and Monde among other areas.
With Mnangagwa announcing last Saturday, an indefinite continuation of the lockdown, vendors have nowhere to get produce for resell as travel outside the resort town is restricted.
Vendors used to order from farms in Lupane, Umguza as well as from Bulawayo, Chegutu and Harare
The situation has been further compounded by the closure of the Zambia-Zimbabwe border as vendors also used to get fresh produce from across the border in Zambia.
Zambian vendors would also cross on foot on a daily basis to sell vegetables, tomatoes, green mealies, beans, sweet potatoes, and other goods to Victoria Falls residents.
“We sometimes use trucks to travel but it’s not easy to get a pass from police,” said another vendor, Elvis Manado.
“They always tell us that going to buy vegetables is not a convincing reason for travelling hence we have to come up with some stories so that they give us.
“The other challenge is that because of the transport costs, it ends up being expensive to sell vegetables hence people now prefer to buy from supermarkets where it is cheaper, leaving us with no customers.”
Chairperson of the Chinotimba vegetable market, Lizwe Sibanda said more than half of the vendors no longer come to the market to sell their produce.
“They said people should take turns to go to the market to allow social distancing. Because of that and the difficult operating environment, some have left,” said Sibanda.
A number of vegetable traders have also resorted to selling from their homes in the high-density suburbs further compounding the situation of vendors who trade at designated markets and have to pay daily rentals to the council.