Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Informal Sector Association (BOISA) are gravely concerned about the developments concerning informal traders near Gaborone Hotel in Gaborone. Lately we have observed that an area normally used by the informal traders has been fenced off, thereby denying them both the access to and the use of the space they have hitherto been trading from.
The background to this development is that the issue started in August 2017, the Gaborone Hotel (GH) management issued what amounted to an eviction notice to the informal traders near the hotel claiming that they (the hotel) have secured ownership of the area used by those traders.
Thusanang Bagwebi Association, an organization representing the informal traders, took up the matter with the Ministry of Lands. The traders established that, indeed GH was given some extension, though not to the extent covered by their recent fencing. The organization made representation to the Hotel management with a view to dialoguing possibilities of a mutually beneficial arrangement. While waiting for this to happen, lockdown came about. As is common cause, all form of activity was halted.
The area in question has, therefore, been fenced off during the ongoing lockdown when the vendors are not available to engage further with the management over possible options let alone salvage their shelters. Taking advantage of the absence of the traders owing to an unprecedented global epidemic is both disingenuous and inhumane. It shows a brutal side to GH’s way of doing business.
Plight of informal employment
This unfortunate action comes at a time when all sectors of our economy, including the informal economy, are experiencing challenges of how they are going to reboot, in a post Covid-19 era. This action, therefore not only disrupts the country’s recovery plan, but also undermines efforts to promote self-employment in the midst of such high levels of structural unemployment.
International protocols on informal economy
The policy context to GH’s ruthless eviction is the implementation of a recently signed Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) between Government, Trade Unions and Business. Through DWCP the social partners committed to ensuring that the informal sector is assisted to address the lack of decent work in the sector. The overall goal is to formalize the informal economy and link it with the mainstream economic activity. Obviously this cannot be achieved if the sector is marginalized. Towards this, the BFTU has started working with BOISA, to address decent work deficits in the sector.
What ought to have happened in the Gaborone Hotel case, is to identify a suitable location first, in the proximity of the business area. This would be done in consultation with the traders and the local authorities, rather than sneaking in surreptitiously to evict them in their absence. Other options that could be explored include establishing decent infrastructure for informal traders in areas where they operate so that they do not appear as an eyesore. Business linkages could be established between informal traders and the formalized businesses in their vicinity if thoughtfulness and good faith are invested. Business linkages can create opportunities for marketing for bigger businesses.
Finally, we implore the Gaborone Hotel management to rescind their decision, wait for the return of the traders and engage them in dialogue to arrive at a mutually beneficial and sustainable solution.
It is BFTU’s view that government should review and implement regulations adapted to the needs of the micro and small enterprises. These should be alongside the legislation of informal businesses, based on international best practices. Botswana should move in step with other countries in the region which have adopted ILO Resolution 204 of 2015 relating to the formalization of the informal sector. The Resolution consists of guidelines of how to formalize the informal economy.
BFTU SECRETARY GENERAL
BOISA Executive Secretary
06th May 2020