THERE were isolated skirmishes in Harare’s central business district (CBD) yesterday when the Zimbabwe Republic Police, working with the municipal police, attempted to evict vendors selling their wares at undesignated sites.
BY OBEY MANAYITI/VENERANDA LANGA
Vendors spent the greater part of the day in cat-and-mouse games with law enforcers in anti-riot gear, who were deployed at several strategic and busy positions.
Roving police and municipal trucks were all over town, while water cannons were deployed at various places including Fourth Street, Harvest House (MDC-T headquarters) and Town House.
This came after the Joint Operation Command decided to clamp down on vendors and pirate taxis operators for allegedly causing chaos in the CBD.
NewsDay witnessed vendors fleeing with their wares to avoid confiscation by the police. However, they vowed they would not leave the streets, as it was their only way of livelihood.
“I’m 46 years old and I have nowhere else to get money except vending. I have grown-up children who are married, but they are not employed as well. My whole family survives on vending, hence, I will not go anywhere. Police might try to evict vendors, but the truth of the matter is that poverty forces us back,” Maud Tengenai, a fruit vendor along First Street, said.
Others said they were prepared to fight back in the event that police deployed their military hardware on them.
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation leader Samuel Wadzai said they were mobilising to encourage vendors to stay put.
President Robert Mugabe last weekend expressed concern at the rise of illegal vending in Harare’s CBD.
“If the President is concerning himself with vendors, he might as well stay at home. His job is large-scale policy that will steer the country in a given direction, a direction that will create jobs that will ultimately get the vendors off the streets. Chasing them away is just a cosmetic solution that makes it look like there’s order yet there is none,” Wadzai said.
On Wednesday , Local Government deputy minister Christopher Chingosho was grilled over the high number of unregistered vendors in Harare.
Proportional representation legislator Sabina Thembani (Zanu PF) demanded the deputy minister to explain the state of disorder at cities, where unregistered shops are operating without paying anything to local authorities.
“The ministry is concerned with the state of disorder, and on Friday (today), there is going to be a meeting with all local authorities to address this concern,” Chingosho said.
But Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) said: “The minister is aware that these people are on the street because the First Lady (Grace Mugabe) told them to stay there. So, is the minister now overriding what the First Lady said?”
In response, Chingosho said: “The answer is that we are not overriding the order that was given. However, what is happening is illegal and the ministry is going to address it.”
Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna (Zanu PF) said the minister should also investigate the extortionists who were reportedly demanding $1 from vendors daily to allow them to sell their wares.
Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) asked Chingosho to explain where Grace Mugabe derives her authority to give orders on governance issues.
“The minister acknowledged that there was an order given by the First Lady, and so is his ministry overriding it? My understanding of orders is that they come from offices of authority, and so where does the First Lady draw her authority to give orders about how local authorities are governed?” Sibanda asked.