ZHRC institutes investigation into abuse of vendors

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The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has reportedly started investigating alleged human rights abuses by Harare municipal police during a recent exercise to remove vendors from illegal hawking sites in the city centre.

BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA

Vendor representatives said they met commissioners on Tuesday, where they were requested to compile a report of what transpired in order for the ZHRC to form a basis of the investigations.

Samuel Wadzai, the director of Vendors’ Initiative for Social Economic Transformation, told NewsDay on Thursday that a follow-up meeting was scheduled for December 8, where vendors will tender their report to the commission.

“We made it very clear that there were serious human rights violations that included confiscation of vendors’ wares without due process, violence with around 10 vendors having been injured in clashes with the municipal police and the proof is there,” Wadzai said.

“The second issue is the politicisation of the whole process, with vendors being asked to prove their membership to a certain political party for them to get space. We never thought this was a political issue, but a socio-economic one.”

He said the allocation of new spaces was also a clear human rights violation as vendors were not engaged in coming up with the new sites like Coventry holding bay, Coca-Cola along Seke Road, Tsiga Centre in Mbare and City Sports Centre.

Harare municipal police arrest a vendor who was resisting removal from the Speke avenue vending site yesterday

“According to the new Constitution, it is actually a right for a citizen to get support from government on their initiative and that right along with the right to entrepreneurship and the right to do business have been violated and these are some of the issues that will be in the report,” he said.

Chief human rights officer Priscilla Mbanga referred all questions to commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi, who was said to be in a board meeting.

Promise Mkwananzi, leader of the Zimbabwe Informal Sectors’ Organisation, said vendors would today meet as a consortium to deliberate on several issues among them the directive to remove hawkers from the streets for the duration of the International Conference on HIV/Aids and STIs in Africa (Icasa) which starts tomorrow.

Mkwananzi, who was appointed spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Informal Economy Coalition, said livelihoods could not be sacrificed for the sake of a five-day event.

“We are very concerned and we are going to take action against that. We will be there (at Icasa) with our wares selling directly to the international buyers that would be gathering,” Mkwananzi said. “We have come up with a coalition of all groups that represent different informal business people.”

He accused the government of trying to portray vending as a derogatory trade when it was legitimate and said some of the vendors were also HIV positive.

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