THE Local Government ministry ordered the recent demolition of vendors’ stalls across the country, it has been established.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
In a leaked letter circulating on social media, dated April 8, 2020, Local Government permanent secretary Zvinechimwe Churu ordered town clerks and chief executive officers to take advantage of the lockdown to clear illegal vending stalls.
“At the ninth Cabinet meeting, it was resolved that local authorities should take advantage of the national lockdown to clean up and renovate small and medium enterprise and informal traders’ workspaces so that these areas will be more conducive to operate from when business opens,” Churu wrote.
“Please make every effort to comply with this resolution. To this end, workers in this area would be classified as ‘essential’ in terms of Circular Minute 2 of 2020 and they should be provided with the necessary protective clothing and equipment while they undertake their duties.”
Zimbabwe is under a national lockdown that will end on May 3 to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
And, during times of national emergencies, government assumes control over all security matters and can requisition anything it deems fit in the national interest.
Posting on his Twitter handle, Harare mayor Herbert Gomba called on town clerk Hosea Chisango to implore government, the municipal police and other stakeholders to stop the demolitions.
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“The town clerk assured me that he will address all concerns coming to council from the affected vending community.
The town clerk, as the head of the municipal administration, has also agreed to issue a statement addressing issues raised by vendors and the Press pertaining to the demolitions,” Gomba said.
Harare City Council said it was working on improving existing markets and construction of new markets to accommodate the affected vendors.
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) complained that the way vendors were removed from their vending sites without the provision of a clear alternative was a flagrant human rights violation and must be avoided.
“Under Section 64 of the Constitution, citizens have a right to freely choose a trade or occupation … VISET is of the opinion that, under the prevailing circumstances, the limitation is not justifiable as it has led to untold suffering of millions of vendors in Zimbabwe,” the vendors’ organisation said.
Vending forms a large part of the informal sector that is estimated to contribute 70% of all economic activity in Zimbabwe.
Council deputy chairperson for the informal sector, Denford Ngadziore, said council issued a demolition notice a long time ago, but vendors ignored it.
“The intention is to pave way for the construction of the long standing Market Mall. Council will prioritise those who used to illegally occupy the area. COVID-19 requires hygiene standards and council is paving way for that environment. Notices to occupants were issued long back but they were resisted based on political affiliation of space barons. We urge stakeholders to offer alternatives to council based on an understanding of the full picture on the ground,” Ngadziore said.