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Mereki shut down

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One of Harare’s most popular drive-in joints, Mereki in Warren Park D, was yesterday shut down by police and Harare municipal police as the fight against the typhoid outbreak escalates.

Mereki is a favourite venue for revellers from all walks of life who converge there for drinks and barbecues.

The place has been a source of livelihood for an estimated 300 people, undertaking various businesses, including car washing and general vending.

Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi yesterday said: “We have to shut it (Mereki) so that we can control and contain typhoid. Above all, Mereki does not have proper sanitary facilities and it is unfortunate we have to close it at this juncture.”

Water Resources Development and Management minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo said water was not responsible for the typhoid epidemic in Harare, but people selling fish “full of flies”.

He told journalists after appearing before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Gender and Community Development to make a presentation on the water situation in the country, that typhoid had been caused by poor sanitation.

“On typhoid, I have been advised by the City of Harare and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare that the contributory factor is not water, but it is something else. People are now selling things they are not supposed to sell and these are sold without proper sanitation, for example, fish full of flies,” he said.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo also appeared before the same committee and said: “When we embarked on the land reform programme in post-2000, donors left and some went to South Africa. A majority of Western donors did not appreciate blacks taking over land from whites and so they elected to stop assisting us. We did not get even a single dollar from donors on water.”

NewsDay visited Mereki yesterday and found all the food stalls like paMai George, Mai Gonyeti and Mai Sibanda, deserted following the police crackdown.

The NewsDay crew that went there just after the raid around mid-morning was greeted by a sombre atmosphere, uncharacteristic of Mereki.

Smouldering smoke remained from the braai stands and motorists coming for their usual lunches said they were surprised and disappointed to find their favourite joint deserted.

In the aftermath of the raid, the vendors were salvaging the little they could, contemplating their future.
Eyewitnesses said the vendors fought running battles with municipal police who confiscated their wares, including cooking utensils and foodstuffs.

“The police just came in the morning when we were preparing for the day and told us to pack our things and leave,” said one vendor who identified herself as Kiri MaMoyo.

“This was my only source of income. I was paying fees, rent and all my family’s other needs from the money I got from roasting meat and selling sadza. I don’t know where to start from now,”
A 40-year-old widow, who gave her name as Mbuya Chari, said she was supporting her five children from selling food at Mereki.

“My husband passed away recently and all my children are young and unemployed. I am the sole breadwinner and I don’t know what they want us to do.”

Sydney Matare, a patron, said: “Council should have checked first whether typhoid is present here before closing this place. It is unfair because, as I see it, the food is hot and is better than what is sold in city restaurants.”

Meanwhile, it was business as usual at Whitehouse, a fishmonger base near Snake Park, despite a ban imposed by the Harare City Council in the wake of the typhoid outbreak.

City health officials claim fish vendors contributed in the spread of typhoid since the infectious bacteria was discovered in the fish samples collected from vendors.

Zvimba East MP Patrick Zhuwao, under whose constituency Lake Chivero falls, was supportive of the ban. Zhuwao said: “I am in support of the ban as the fish are putting lives at danger. City of Harare is pumping raw sewage off Marimba River into Mukuvisi River and to Lake Chivero. This is unacceptable.”

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