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Council blitz long overdue

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The stabilisation of the economy following the adoption of multiple currencies three years ago has seen an upsurge in a number of informal businesses, especially in Harare.

A majority of these businesses are unregistered and in some cases located in undesignated areas, crowding out legitimate enterprises.

In the case of car sales yards that had been set up along many of the city’s roads, the operations resulted in overcrowding and urban decay.

Government’s threats to ban the importation of cars five years or older and left-hand drive vehicles last year also saw a stampede by Zimbabweans bringing in second-hand vehicles.

After the ban was suspended, these cars had no takers and the buyers had no option but to set up these car sales.

Harare City Council in February passed a resolution to demolish illegal businesses and after a long delay the City Fathers finally started taking action on Wednesday.

Council workers pulled down fences and offices at premises of the illegal businesses enabling legitimate operators to carry out their work undisturbed. We welcome the move by council because it was long overdue and if the local authority had continued to fold its arms, the situation would have got out of control.

But we are alarmed by statements made by Zanu PF officials who have vowed to stop the operations claiming their members are being victimised. Zanu PF is seeing a political conspiracy just because this clean-up operation is spearheaded by an MDC-T-dominated council.

Rank hypocrisy, this coming from the same party that in 2005 carried out the infamous Operation Murambatsvina, displacing over 750 000 people countrywide under the guise of restoring order in urban centres.

Lawlessness is one of the reasons Zimbabwe has not been successful in attracting foreign investment and the Harare council must guard against going the same path our national politics has done. We also found the excuse the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) not to assist council in dealing with these illegal businesses intriguing. Harare provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector James Sabau said they would only act if council obtained a court order to evict the businesses.

That precondition was not given during Operation Murambatsvina and we wonder what has changed now. Do police now require permission from the courts before acting on illegal activities? Or upholding the law?

This is the same attitude that has nurtured the Zanu PF-aligned militia group — Chipangano — that has made Harare public transport ranks a den for criminals. Chipangano has also forcibly occupied numerous council properties where its members collect rentals from tenants to fund their illegal activities and those of Zanu PF.

Informal traders are routinely harassed by these roughies who know that the ZRP is too compromised politically to deal with them.

We urge the Harare council to remain steadfast and use its security apparatus if the ZRP is unwilling to assist in ridding the city of illegal businesses. Council has an obligation to protect law-abiding businesses which sustain the local authority by paying taxes and rates.

It can no longer be business as usual.

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