BULAWAYO’S decentralised bulk fresh produce markets started operating on Wednesday in five suburbs as council complies with Government measures to decongest the central business district (CBD).

Prior to the Covid-19-induced national lockdown, most local authorities were struggling to deal with informal sector players operating in the CBD leading to a cat and mouse relationship, largely between vendors and municipal police.

The lockdown gave Government an opportunity to remodel the SMEs sector to decongest cities by directing councils to move markets closer to the people.

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) yesterday said it identified five fresh produce distribution hubs at Sekusile Nkulumane Bus Terminus, Emganwini Mupedzanhamo Association, Old Pumula Vegetables Market, New Magwegwe Market and Cowdray Park Bus Terminus Market.

In a statement yesterday, Bulawayo town clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the decentralised markets will reduce the cost of doing business, bring markets closer to people and address vulnerability safety threats that saw women and the girlchild going to market places in early morning hours to buy produce.

Mr Dube said the bulk delivery site will fall under the Bulawayo Association of Farmers Markets (BAFM) and it will be accepting new members in the farming and vegetable wholesale markets.

“The wholesales will be operating in a fenced-off area for trucks while council is preparing permanent structures. The wholesale shall be open for licensed operators and bulk purchases. Only members of the association shall be allowed to bring in delivery trucks. Council and other security stakeholders will police the markets to eliminate illegal sales such as boot sales,” he said.

On Wednesday, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, visited two of the Bulawayo selected fresh produce markets in New Magwegwe and Old Pumula suburb for an assessment.

A Chronicle news crew noted that the existing structures are in good shape but needed to be upgraded to accommodate vendors.

At New Magwegwe, the area had been neglected and was housing carpenters and those fixing television sets and cellphones.

The one in Old Pumula suburb was operational and both vegetables and groceries were on sale.

Dr Nyoni said she was impressed by existing infrastructure but said some few touch-ups are needed to for people to sell fresh produce and other products.

“Anyone who is not registered should not be allowed to operate anywhere and anyhow. This is what is causing congestion and filth in the towns. Also, if we are going to use the funds that the President has provided productively then we need facilitate for SMEs to be productive. Not just to just give them to buy and sell and buy and sell because there is too much buying and selling,” she said.

Dr Nyoni said in preparation of the $500 million stimulus package for the SMEs, players need training to improve the quality of their products.

“If we are going to use the funds that the President has provided productively, then we need facilitate for SMEs to be trained. Not just to just give them to buy and sell goods but to produce because there is too much buying and selling of goods without productivity which the President has always emphasised on.

“A lot of SMEs are producing in their homes and they are invisible. The quality is not good because they are not capacitated to have a factory shells, productive centres and so forth,” she said.

Dr Nyoni said officers in her ministry will engage the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Science and Technology to train members in the sector for improved quality products.

“After clustering them we then train them and link them to universities and polytechnics so that they improve the quality of their products and are also assisted technologically,” said Dr Nyoni.

She said her Ministry working with other Government departments will also help local authorities to construct sustainable infrastructure for the informal sector in line with decongestion of cities [email protected]