STREET vendors in Mutare and Harare yesterday cried foul after they were forcibly driven off their illegal vending sites in the city during a combined cleansing operation involving the military, municipal and members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
BY KENNETH NYANGANI / MUNESU NYAKUDYA
Unregistered taxi operators were also not spared in the exercise codenamed “Operation Restore Sanity”, which was simultaneously rolled out in all major cities and towns. The vendors pleaded with the local authority to urgently allocate them alternative vending sites to enable them to continue with their trade.
“They (Mutare City Council) mean business and they want to keep the city clean, but how am I going to fend for my family as we had become used to surviving on vending all these years?” a vendor, Taurai Chikati, asked.
Pauline Mundangepfupfu said the council should offer them alternative vending places. “They should offer us alternative vending designated places because we can’t survive, we survive on buying and selling,” she said.
Others informal traders who refused to be named said they were planning to petition Mutare City Council to stop the exercise, but council spokesperson Spren Mutiwi said the operation was irreversible. “This is an ongoing thing because we want to address the level of disorder in the city. Other cities have conducted such operations and as Mutare City Council, we reacted late, but this is something we are eager to address,” he said
Mutiwi accused vendors of shunning designated vending sites and setting up shop on street pavements. But the vendors claimed the designated sites were located outside the central business district and not user friendly.
“Some designated places are not good for business and far way from our customers,” a vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Elsewhere, Harare council spokesperson Michael Chideme insisted that the vendors were not being forcibly pushed out of the city centre.
“Members of the informal sector should go to designated trading sites. We are not forcibly relocating them, we believe in engagement and mutual respect. Pavements are for pedestrians and roads are for vehicles not for vendors. It’s high time everybody respects the law,” Chideme said.
This came as vendors associations and opposition parties pleaded with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to respect vendors’ rights and shun use of brute force that characterised former President Robert Mugabe’s government.