DEFENCE minister Sydney Sekeramayi yesterday ruled out the involvement of the army in driving out illegal vendors operating in the central business districts of Harare and Bulawayo, in a strange twist to the emotive issue.
by XOLISANI NCUBE
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, Harare Provincial Affairs minister Miriam Chikukwa and Presidential Guard commander Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwa on Monday gave vendors a seven-day ultimatum to relocate to designated sites.
The trio said they were speaking on behalf of the Joint Operations Command (Joc) in Harare and warned of dire consequences if the vendors did not leave the undesignated sites by Monday.
Joc consists of the army, Central Intelligence Organisation and the police.
The defiant vendors said they were also giving the army seven days to create jobs, setting the stage for a violent confrontation.
Sekeramayi told journalists on the sidelines of a campaign rally for Zanu PF’s June 10 by-election candidate for Kuwadzana, Betty Nhambu Kaseke, in Harare that the army had no business interfering in civilian affairs.
Sekeramayi said Chombo’s ministry could enlist the services of the police if it wanted to enforce council by-laws.
“The removal of vendors is the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and we are hoping that the Minister of Local Government (Chombo) and the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises (Sithembiso Nyoni) are addressing that issue,” he said, adding that “there will be no involvement of the army”.
Chombo’s utterances linking the army to the operation against vendors sparked outrage with opposition political parties and civil society groups threatening to fight on the side of the hawkers.
The Zanu PF government was accused failing to create the 2,2 million jobs they promised during the 2013 election campaign, hence the proliferation of unlicensed vendors.
Sekeramayi said if Chombo and Nyoni, with the aid of the local authorities, failed to drive out the hawkers who have flooded street pavements blocking the smooth flow of traffic, they should instead seek help from the police and not the army.
“I am saying the responsibility is that of the Minister of Local Government and Small and Medium Enterprises and when there are problems, they will go to the police and not the army,” he said.
“In a very unlikely situation, but I don’t think it will reach that, the army might be called, but still that will not happen.”
Due to increased unemployment, all cities have been flooded by vendors who are selling anything to make a living.
Opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week said the intervention of the army in civil matters was tantamount to a declaration of war on innocent civilians.
But Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere yesterday said Tsvangirai should stay away from the issue of vendors and concentrate on his “fading political career”.
“Tsvangirai has nothing to offer you, now he is talking about vendors, surely, how can an old person like Tsvangirai talk about vendors. No one is against vendors, but all we are saying is, they must move to designated places where they will sell their wares properly. We don’t want a country with chaos,” Kasukuwere told Zanu PF supporters in Kuwadzana.
“Tsvangirai wants to bring chaos and as Zanu PF we are saying down with chaos. Our mothers who want to sell their goodies should be given places to do their business and it is the duty of councillors and MPs to do so.”
Kasukuwere took a veiled attack on imprisoned Zanu PF Harare youth league leader Godwin Gomwe, who is facing charges of extorting $46 000 from housing co-operatives in Glen Norah as “protection fees”.
Gomwe allegedly claimed that the land the co-operatives were occupying belonged to First Lady Grace Mugabe.
“We don’t want people who tarnish the image of the party. If you do this, I can assure you that you will exchange this party regalia for prison garb. Don’t abuse the name of the President, we don’t want that,” Kasukuwere said drawing loud cheers from the crowd which shouted Gomwe.
Gomwe was on Wednesday remanded in custody to June 17 pending trial on the extortion charges.-