Gwanda mayor Lionel De Necker has alleged that police in the Matabeleland South provincial capital were acting outside the town’s by-laws by harassing vendors and students.
De Necker told NewsDay at the weekend that the town would soon approach the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) over the issue and would also make an application to the High Court to stop the police from allegedly harassing vendors and students.
“The police have taken over the council’s role in the community. They are harassing vendors. We have issued out licences to vendors, but the police confiscate them and tell the vendors that the licences we gave them are fake.
“Yesterday (Friday) we had a meeting with the vendors and they were complaining that the licences we gave them are fake. The police were invited, but they didn’t come. After the meeting they put on riot gear and rounded up the vendors. Most of the police officers who are doing this are new and young officers.
“Students from the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic who knock off late in the evening are also affected by these police officers. They are harassed on their way home,” the mayor said.
It was bad for the police to believe they could overrule the local authority in the town, he said.
“They confiscate the vendors’ licences and we go there and get them back, and then they confiscate them again. We have exhausted all the options available to us. We have no option but to write to Jomic and we will make an application to the High Court to bar the police from undermining the by-laws of the local authority,” he said.
De Necker said as a local authority they had their own municipal police officers who should be managing the operations of the vendors and enforcing the by-laws of the town.
Contacted for comment, Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson only identified as Assistant Inspector Mkhwanazi said the police would be trying to enforce the law but were open for dialogue with the local authority.
“I don’t think police officers can enforce laws that are not there. We have laws such as the Public Health Act and others and all we do is to enforce them. As far as I know, we are enforcing the laws. We will never arrest people for no reason. We have not received any formal complaints so far.
“If there are issues concerning by-laws, the mayor is free to approach the police. He (the mayor) has municipality police officers and it is possible that we sit down and discuss,” he said.