FEMALE vendors have alleged that they were subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of Harare municipal police who confiscated their wares during the recent operation to remove informal traders from the city centre.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Affected vendors told a public meeting organised by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in Harare on Tuesday night that they were harassed and had their wares confiscated by heavy-handed council police officers.
They alleged that many of them had their wares released in exchange for sexual favours to corrupt municipal cops.
“We sold our bodies because as a woman, if you are pushed into a corner, you can do anything to survive. They wanted sexual favours and many women ended up selling their bodies to have confiscated wares released,” said one woman vendor during the meeting.
Others corroborated her story saying many had been victims, but could not complain fearing losing their wares and livelihoods.
“They would corner us and say our cards are fake. But our only way out would be to succumb to their demands for sexual favours to save our wares,” she said.
The National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) confirmed receiving such reports from some of its members.
NAVUZ vice-chairperson Douglas Shumbayaonda said most of the victims feared their images would be tarnished if they reported the abuses.
But council spokesperson Michael Chideme refuted the claims saying council police was a disciplined force.
“l don’t think that’s true. These are allegations to tarnish a noble exercise. We have a very professional police and adhere to laws of the country,” he said.
Addressing the same gathering, Zanu PF loyalist Goodson Nguni accused vendor organisations of politicising the issue of hawkers and blamed council for the vending mess.
“The people who made this mess are Harare City Council. They allowed the existence of land barons and space barons. They sent police to confiscate what you are selling. This mess was created by these clueless councillors,” Nguni said.
“You must engage central government when councillors mess up. It’s Harare council that said we have problems with vendors. We don’t want people who politicise this.”
Council environment committee chairperson Christopher Mbanga’s address was marred by heckling from irate vendors who also blamed the MDC-T councillors for the mess.
Mbanga said council was working quietly with lawyers to ensure the release of the arrested vendors.
Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation director Promise Mkwananzi accused Zanu PF of taking a populist approach to issues.
“Each time before elections they have populist policies like what they did during the days of the land reform programme. They dished out houses only to threaten to demolish them after elections, we can’t continue politicking with people’s lives,” he said.