VENDORS in Gweru have been ordered to stop operating at undesignated areas in the central business district (CBD) as the city prepares to confer President Emmerson Mnangagwa with the Freedom of the City status.
Freedom of the city is an honour bestowed on a valued member of the community, or upon a visiting celebrity or dignitary.
In a statement on Saturday, acting town clerk Livingston Churu said: “We would like to inform all the informal traders who are operating in the CBD to move away from, and operate at designated areas.”
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association director Conilia Selipiwe alleged that this was being done to portray a good image for the city.
“What is very sad about this whole thing is the hypocrisy that our local authority has. It has been allowing vendors to sell wares in town. What is happening is that there is going to be conferment of the Freedom of the City status to President Mnangagwa sometime next week. There are serious preparations being done with roads in the CBD also being marked," Selipiwe said.
“So council is trying to paint a wrong picture that the city is always clean. The local authority needs to understand that the people are struggling, they are not employed and the industries are not operating. The only economy that we have is the informal sector. So why is Gweru council doing this?
“Most vendors find it very difficult to pay amounts required at vending markets like Kudzanai bus terminus. They end up selling at undesignated places. My worry isn’t the removal of these vendors, but the kind of picture that the city tries to portray to the President; he has to know what is happening.”
Gweru Vendors and Traders Association Trust consultant Costain Mukanganiki said: “It’s very unfortunate that the informal traders are being treated this way. Moreso, council has given the vendors notice without engaging their leadership. Markets were decommissioned during the COVID-19 pandemic and only Kudzanai reopened and accommodated just a third of those who were once there. Council corruptly awarded contracts to modernise the previous markets such as Kombayi and Wimpy. And three years down the line, refurbishment is not complete.”
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Churu, however, dismissed allegations that the exercise was meant to pave way for Mnangagwa to be bestowed Freedom of the City status.
“It’s not like that. For more information, contact the public relations department, otherwise we want to make the city clean. If they sell at designated places we will be able to deal with littering,“ he said.
Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi confirmed that there would be Freedom of the City conferment on Mnangagwa, but referred Southern Eye to council spokesperson Vimbayi Chingwaramusee, who could not be reached for comment.