President Robert Mugabe yesterday threatened to expel Western diplomats for allegedly sponsoring vendors to resist their relocation from the Harare city centre.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Mugabe, who was officially opening the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) International Expo in Harare, said the vendors should vacate the streets immediately.
He said Britain and the United States were behind the refusal by vendors to relocate from the capital’s central business district.
“Misbehave and we will kick you in your bottom,” Mugabe said to the diplomats. “What demons are these people that they come here and cause problems? We do not need the United States and British ambassadors.”
Vendors clashed with municipal police who were forcibly removing them from the streets.
Their leaders were arrested for allegedly obstructing police during the clean-up operation. The informal traders say they have nowhere to go as they are unemployed.
Mugabe also told delegates at the SME expo that due to the economic challenges bedevilling the country, the informal sector was accommodating over 60% of the country’s working class contributing more than 50% to the gross domestic product.
“Having recognised the importance of such a viable and dynamic SME sector essential and pivotal for economic development, we have established the ministry responsible for SMEs and corporates,” he said.
Due to continued company closures, most people have turned to street vending to eke out a living.
Mugabe said he had instructed government to put aside 25% of all State tenders to be given to the Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development ministry for the procurement of goods and services to be reserved for players in the SMEs sector.