by Fungai Munetsi

Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) has been advocating through live radio programs on the 16th and 23rd of April 2020 for the government to cushion informal economy workers with funds to buy food, waiver of rentals, ZESA and water bills until the situation normalizes. The live radio discussion programme was on Capitalk 100.4 FM, Diamond FM, Star FM, and Nyaminyami FM concurrently. This programme was a discussion of the reality check on the impact of COVID-19 to the  informal economy workers and traders. The now and post lockdown life reflection. ZCIEA was represented by SG Wisborn Malaya and National Women’s Chair Charity Mandishona. The hosts were Minister of Women’s Affairs and SMEs Development Dr. Stembiso Nyoni and Mr. Denford Halimani from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

ZCIEA Secretary-General Wisborn Malaya  highlighted key challenges of COVID-19 lockdown on informal economy workers and traders, food shortages, debt rise through rentals, water, electricity, and other associated monthly bills among the majority of informal economy workers and traders who are mostly tenants. Landlords were demanding their rentals yet the source of income for these informal economy traders is currently closed.Some landlords were even threatening to evict their tenants. The issue of
rentals was also raised by members of the public through phone calls on the
radio programme. Some even suggested that landlords and tenants should sit down and agree on an amicable rental payment plan in view of no control to Covid 19 impact in this difficult time.

On a positive note, the government of Zimbabwe acknowledged the plea of poor informal economy workers and the general public on the rentals issue by formulating Statutory instrument (SI) 96 of 2020 Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Deferral of Rent and Mortgage Payments During National Lockdown) Regulations, 2020 which was signed into law by President Mnangagwa on the 30th of April 2020.

This is a big win for as many informal workers and other general tenants who were struggling to pay for rentals due to the indefinite closure of their source of income due to country lockdown. The lockdown whilst necessary for the safety of people has been devastating for most Zimbabweans who are self-employed.

“Whereas on account of the national lockdown many persons are on forced leave from employment and therefore unable to earn the income necessary to pay for, among other things, rental for residential accommodation and mortgage repayments. His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe Republic, in terms of Section 2 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act [Chapter 10:20], made the following regulations…” reads the decree. The SI 96 of 2020 defers payment of rentals and mortgages without the risk of being evicted, disposed from land, or sued from May until the end of the lockdown.

The new law allows tenants and those with mortgage debts to pay their landlords and creditors in a staggered manner. Tenants and mortgagors are allowed to pay rentals, without interest staggered in equal installments over three months for each month under lockdown. Due to the national lockdown, most residents have not generated income to enable them to pay May rentals Statutory Instrument 96 of 2020 does not stop landlords from demanding the deferred rentals after the end of the lockdown

‘The Chamber That Delivers’