SCORES of street vendors in Marondera brought council business to a halt after they stormed Town House to protest against harassment by municipal police.
By Jairos Saunyama
Anti-riot police had to be called to monitor the situation as the angry vendors threatened to raid the council offices.
The demonstration took place while council authorities were locked up in a meeting over the issue of vendors at the council chambers.
The vendors only dispersed after police declared the demonstration illegal.
One of the protest organisers, Bright Rambanepasi, accused council officials of grabbing most vending stalls in the town and allocating them to “their cronies”.
“We are surprised why council is chasing us away from the streets,” Rambanepasi said.
“How are we going to survive? In South Africa, we were chased away and we are now back home, the municipality police are after us. What is there for us now?”
Rambanepasi said the vendors were prepared to pay relevant levies for them to operate, but would not tolerate abuse by municipal police.
“We are ready to negotiate with the council if they want us to pay some money, but if they clash with us, we are more than ready for confrontation,” he said.
“Amai Mugabe (First Lady Grace Mugabe) said we should sell on the streets for now to fend for our families, but her enemies are now going against her.
“Council should approach the First Lady and notify her that they are chasing us off the streets.
“We cannot go anywhere because the designated points are all occupied by council officials.
“We have evidence that council officials have more than five stalls at the market after registering their relatives.”
Marondera mayor Anthony Makwindi could not be reached for comment as he was locked in meetings for most of yesterday.
However, a council official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the move to chase away street vendors came about after registered vendors had stopped paying rates to council.
The vendors reportedly argued that illegal vendors were driving them out of business.
“Some of the registered vendors are refusing to pay fees to council complaining that those selling at undesignated points are harming their business,” the official said.
“This has resulted in the local authority losing potential revenue hence the move to clear the streets.”