BY FORTUNE MOYO
While waiting for customers, Sikhulile Ngwenya, a local vendor at the Mkhosana market, carefully loads her stall with cabbages, carrots, avocados, tomatoes and choumolier, a dark green, spinach-like vegetable with slightly crumpled leaves. A faint sound of local music playing on the radio at a shop not too far away reverberates through the market. Housed in a red-brick structure, the market — one of two in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls city — is divided into 20 stalls, including Ngwenya’s, all displaying a variety of vegetables and fruit, neatly and attractively packed. It is a busy area just behind a small shopping center where taxis drop off and pick up Mkhosana residents. This has been Ngwenya’s source of livelihood for more than 10 years.
“I have raised my four children from this vegetable stall,” she says. But today she feels a constant threat and uncertainty looming over her livelihood.
The reopening of the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, more than two years after it was closed in 2020 as a precautionary measure to combat the coronavirus pandemic, paved the way for the return of vegetable vendors from neighboring Zambia.
And even though the informal cross-trading relationship between Zambia and Zimbabwe has long been mutually beneficial, the return of Zambians has rattled vendors like Ngwenya, who say that their profits plummeted since the opening and that the competition is no longer fair. The “good business” during the pandemic has made Zimbabwean vendors realize, Ngwenya says, that Zambians are making money illegally “in our territory at no cost” and demand they be brought under the purview of law.
Zambia and Zimbabwe share similar social and cultural practices, making the movement of people between the countries easy. Zambian vendors cross over from the nearby city of Livingstone in their country to sell vegetables to residents of Victoria Falls, a tourism city on the Zimbabwean side.
In the early mornings, the Zambian vendors, popularly known as omzanga, a Nyanja term meaning “friend,” cross the Victoria Falls Bridge — the only route from Zambia to Zimbabwe. The omzangas can easily be identified by the effortless way in which they balance the containers loaded with vegetables on their heads, or the carefully tied merchandise on their backs, wrapped with bright, colorful fabric in bold designs, popularly known as zambias.
When borders were closed here like elsewhere globally, cross-border trade was allowed only for the movement of large commercial goods, not for people. As a result, local vendors enjoyed a monopoly over the market because customers had no option but to buy vegetables from them, even if their prices were higher than those of their Zambian competitors.But local vendors say locals know and understand the reasons for the higher prices.
The farms in Zambia are close by. As a result, the Zambian vendors always have easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Local vendors, on the other hand, have to get their vegetables 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, because those are the closest farms to Victoria Falls. This forces them to sell at higher prices because it costs more to acquire the produce.
It doesn’t help that local vendors must operate from their designated spots in the markets, for which they pay rent to the municipality, while the Zambian vendors can move door to door.
Ngwenya, who pays the Victoria Falls municipality $16 a month for her stall, says during the first government-mandated coronavirus lockdown, she made $15 to $25 a day, but now she makes $10 to $15 a day.
“Because vendors sell door to door, our customers no longer visit the market,” says Ngwenya. “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.”
The pandemic gravely affected tourism here, and many people were laid off. With no Zambian vendors in the picture then, many Zimbabweans took up selling vegetables as a means of livelihood.
But after the border opened, and months later when restrictions were lifted completely, they realized that Zambians were “stealing” the local clientele and they needed to address the issue, says Grace Shoko, vice chairperson of the Zambezi Informal Cross Border Traders Association. Shoko, whose organization was founded in late 2021 in Victoria Falls to resolve issues between local and Zambian traders, says representatives of the association have spoken with authorities and vendors from both sides of the border, to try to find a workable solution.
Naomi, a Zambian vendor who prefers that only her first name be used for fear of being targeted, says when she sells in Zimbabwe, she makes more money than when selling in Zambia because in Zimbabwe she sells in United States dollars, which she converts to Zambian kwacha back in her country, giving her a substantial amount.
“I understand that it is unfair that locals are not allowed to sell door to door, and we can,” she says. “However … I am also doing what I can to support my family in Zambia.”
Exact figures for informal cross-border trade are hard to come by because of its unrecorded nature, but such trade constitutes a major form of informal activity in most African countries. In fact, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which includes Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, cross-border trading has an estimated value of about $17.6 billion, which accounts for 30% to 40% of intra-SADC trade. Even though informal cross-border traders carry different types of goods, trade in sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by food, particularly groceries and fresh produce.
Until recently, Zambian vendors coexisted with local vendors, without any large-scale resentment or demands. But now, as most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, easing the movement of people, some vendors have come together to express this displeasure collectively, with the help of organizations like the Mkhosana vendors association, lobbying for a level playing field and an end to what they say is an undue advantage for Zambians.
Mercy Mushare, a member of the Mkhosana vendors association, says the group is in talks with the municipality to put in place bylaws that protect local vendors or build stalls for Zambian vendors. “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,” says Mushare. (The association has a membership of about 300 vendors.)
The city’s bylaws stipulate that vendors should sell from designated places and not move around the city. But the laws apply only to local vendors.
Mandla Dingani, spokesperson for the Victoria Falls municipality, says the municipality is well aware of the tension between omzangas and local vendors. “We are in the process of coming up with a way of ensuring that even Zambian vendors sell from designated stalls and also pay a monthly fee for selling in Victoria Falls,” Dingani says.
Sibusiso Dube, a resident of Chinotimba, worries that strict action against Zambian vendors might eventually hurt the common Zimbabwean. “It is unfair for Zambian traders to have more freedom … but if Zambian traders are barred totally, we will suffer because local vendors will increase their prices of vegetables beyond the reach of many, as we experienced when borders were closed during COVID-19,” he says.
Standing in front of her stall, Ngwenya says what she knows is that she is suffering losses. Despite that, this is the only work she has known over the years, and switching to anything else now is out of the question for her.-Global Press Journal
Victoria Falls based lawfirm donates football kits to Division Two teams
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
A Victoria Falls based law firm has donated football kits to twelve Division Two soccer players in Hwange West district in an effort to fight drugs and substance abuse among youths in the communities.
According to the law firm’s director Thulani Nkala, of Dube Nkala & Company Legal Practitioners, the donation aims to promote a healthy society where teenagers can engage in sports even after school.
Division Two falls under the Zimbabwe Football Association and it comes after Division One which is also below the premier league.
“As you are all aware that drugs are causing problems in our town, we felt that we can make a difference to counter this by donating some football kits and other equipment for our youths to use as they play,” Nkala said.
“We hope that this will be an ongoing partnership, but for now we will only be sponsoring for this upcoming season which is about to start and we shall renew as the next seasons approach on condition that we have mutual understanding which is based on respect because we will not want a situation where teams fight each one another.”
He said apart from the kits and trophy, the teams will play for a prize money at the end of the season.
Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Matabeleland North provincial acting chairman Clevious Ncube said the gesture will go a long way in nurturing young talents in the Division Two league, whom most of them are school going children and teenagers.
Prosper Neshavi, provincial ZIFA board member, lamented lack of interest in football sponsorship even at national level.
He said this has been part of the reasons why the country has been kicked out of the Federation Internationale Football Association (FIFA).
FIFA President Giovanni Infantino last year said the association had to suspend Zimbabwe and Kenya for government interference in the activities of the football associations.
“They know what needs to be done for them to be readmitted or for the suspension to be lifted. “Infantino said last year.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to introduce sports tourism in Victoria Falls, tourism operators and other sports officials have joined hands to form a committee that will spearhead the allocation of land by the Victoria Falls City Council for sporting activities such as the football, tennis, boxing and rugby among other sporting disciples.
This was revealed by the committee chairperson Mthabisi Ncube who lamented lack of sporting facilities in the city.
He revealed that through their negotiations with the council, a certain portion of land has been set aside for the project.
Their end goal is to see the town hosting local and international teams, which will inturn boost the country’s tourism GDP.
“As we say that we are the tourism capital of Zimbabwe and possibly the better capital of Africa and we fail to have a 10 000 seater stadium,” he said.
“We can not fail to host training matches such as the rugby, football where teams such as the Kaizer Chiefs Football Club can decide to come to Victoria Falls as they prepare ahead of the season, so their coming will help us a lot because all the businesses from accomodation to the salons and vegetable vendors will benefit from their presence, but it cannot happen when we do not have the facilities.
“Our vision is to have a complex where we can host international games, international meetings for cricket, rugby, tennis. We want to be like what Capetown (South Africa) does where they have no free weekend in arts and sporting activities.”
Gaseous coal substances exposes Hwange residents to TB
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
In the scorching sun, Litha Ncube and her nine-year-old daughter are armed with hoes and shovels as they make way to a dumpsite to scavenge for a precious by-product of coal, coke.
The poverty-stricken widow from Hwange’s Madumabisa Village says she has no option but to scrounge for the product in a life-threatening environment that has claimed the lives of many. This is her only means of survival.
As she digs the dumpsite without any Personal Protective Clothing (PPE) such as the surgical mask, her daughter’s task is to pick and separate the coke from the chaff and fill a 50-kilogramme sack. This quantity of coke fetches US$5, which she says helps to sustain her family.
Her husband died at the height of Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 after he was diagnosed with Tubercolosis (TB) which he contracted due to inhaling of coal dust at the same dumpsite.
Ncube was also diagnosed and it took her over 12 months to fully recover.
“If I stop, who will support my children?” Ncube quizzes as she continues to dig.
Ncube is among the many women in Hwange who have resorted to trespassing into the Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) dumpsite in search of coke, which they resell to make ends meet.
TB is one of the leading causes of death in Zimbabwe.
According to Community Working Group on Health, about 6 300 Zimbabweans die of TB each year despite it being preventable and curable.
The African region has the second-highest tuberculosis burden worldwide, after Southeast Asia. under the World Health Organisation End Tuberculosis Strategy, countries should aim to reduce TB cases by 80% and cut deaths by 90% by 2030 compared with 2015.
According to National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe president Kurebwa Javangwe Nomboka, gaseous substances from coal dusts have left many Hwange villagers and residents exposed to TB, although many are not documented.
‘The prevalence of TB is very high, but undocumented in the areas we have done programs which are around the mining community of Hwange,” Nomboka told VicFallsLive.
“Coal is the commonly mined mineral in the area and is well known for its combustible nature and the emission of dangerous poisonous gases.”
Nomboka says apart from residents such as Ncube, the scourge is higher in the mining companies, largely Chinese owned.
He says the mostly affected are underground miners and even those involved in the processing of coal to coking coke.
” Examples of areas with a high risk of TB which my team have visited are HC, Hwange Coal Gasification and South Mining,” he revealed.
“The environment in these mines is heavily embroidered or engulfed with coal dust and gaseous substances which causes a high risk of TB and other related diseases like Pneumoconiosis.”
These heavy dusts and gaseous substances, Nomboka says are also evident in the residential areas and thus posing a risk to the families of miners.
” At Hwange Coal Gasification at times the whole complex is engulfed with gaseous substances to an extent that you won’t even be in a position to see buildings or people around you,”
“Besides the dust and gaseous substances there is immense heat that comes out from the furnaces and the personnel working such under environments are spotted with improper and inadequate PPEs and the issue in these mines has become of lesser priority as it is only acquired when we raise a red flag as a union.”
Nomboka said the PPEs being acquired does not meet the standard required under the Mining industry safety regulations leaving workers vulnerable to contracting TB and other related diseases.
” As a trade union we have reigned in on these defaulting companies to comply with the mining safety regulations and those found not to be in compliance with the regulations have had to be litigated against in order for them to comply,” Nomboka revealed.
“The country needs to adopt stern measures on those who fail to comply with mining safety regulations by enacting laws which provide for hefty fines for companies who fail to provide safety nets for their employees and proper and adequate protective clothing.”
Engage communities in TB planning, Government urged
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has called on the government to engage communities in planning and implementing of strong, integrated Tubercolosis (TB) mitigation as part of response measure, amid revelations that over 6 000 Zimbabweans succumb to the pulmonary disease every year.
The call was made by CWGH, a health watch organisation executive director Itai Rusike ahead of the World TB Day commemorations.
Rusike said although there has been some efforts made towards ending TB, a killer disease and highlighting further action that is needed to defeat the life-threatening disease, communities should be part of the action.
“TB remains a major obstacle to attaining the SDG vision of health, development, and prosperity for all in Zimbabwe,”Rusike told VicFallsLive.
“Our country has an estimated 21 000 new cases of TB each year, and 3.1% of these are drug resistant.
” 6300 Zimbabweans die of TB each year despite it being preventable and curable.”
According to health activists, most of these are recorded in mining towns and communities where there is no adequate Personal Protective Equipment.
Rusike also called for more scientific research and funding towards eradication of pulmonary disease including the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Funding for research on TB in Zimbabwe is minimal, and new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB are urgently required,” he said.
“There is an opportunity to leverage Covid-19 infrastructure and investments to improve the TB response, integrate TB and Covid-19 testing and tracing, and strengthen efforts to overcome the barriers that people continue to face when accessing TB services.”
According to studies, the advent of Covid-19, three years ago eliminated 12 years of progress in the Global Fight against TB as governments, due to its response to the pandemic pushed aside TB outreach and services, resulting in a 20% drop in diagnosis and treatment worldwide.
“This World TB Day 2023 (March 24) we emphasize that “Yes! We can end TB” – aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new World Health Organisation recommendations, adoption of innovation, accelerated action and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic,”Rusike said.
“It is time for the government to fulfill its commitments towards defeating TB.
“The government should engage communities in planning and implementing strong, integrated TB and Covid-19 mitigation and response measures.”
In addition, he said, there is need to increase financing for TB prevention and care, innovations in care delivery, and research and development, including for new TB vaccines to prevent the development of Drug Resistant TB.
” The theme brings attention to tuberculosis (TB) and our collective power to end TB by 2030 and therefore reach the SDG goals,” he added.
“It brings hope and builds on the amazing work done in 2022 by Zimbabwe as one of the TB High Burden Countries to recover from the impact of Covid -19 while ensuring access to TB treatment and prevention.
” It is time to take urgent action to get back on track and accelerate collective efforts to fulfill the 2022 United Nations targets on TB to defeat the disease and save lives.
“The commitments made, and targets set by Heads of State and other leaders to accelerate action to end TB must be kept even in Covid-19 crisis and should be backed by adequate investments (and) this will help to protect the lives of thousands of peoplesuffering from TB and to prevent further loss of gains made in the fight against TB.
” Not one more person should die from TB because it is a preventable and treatable disease.”
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