HARARE—A dangerous stand-off looms between Mugabe government and some illegal vendors who are back on the streets of Harare, a few months after they were forcibly removed in what the government claimed were moves designed to clean up cities and towns that were hosting millions of Zimbabweans seeking a decent way of making money.
Most cities and towns in Zimbabwe removed illegal vendors from streets in July last year following an order by Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who threatened to fire local authority officials that did not heed his directive.
Kasukuwere said the illegal vendors had turned most urban centers into an eyesore as they were selling different wares harpharzadly and carpeting streets with litter.
The local authorities descended on the vendors with an iron fist as they confiscated their wares and forced them to desert undesignated selling bays.
But this has not deterred them from going back to where they were forcibly evicted by municipal security officials and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Some of the dejected illegal vendors say they have decided to come back and sell their wares in the city center as they can’t make ends meets in designated council vending sites, which are far away from good vending points.
Studio 7 caught up with some of them in the Harare central business district where it had become a no-go area for such merchants.
One of them is Tafadzwa Tirivavi, a vendor who sells his wares along First Sreet. He said he will not abandon his business even if the local authority and the police confiscate his wares.
“ As vendors we will not move out of the streets until we have been allocated proper vending sites. Currently the vending sites council availed are too far away from the customers and not enough for all of us. Even if they take our wares we will continue coming back to the streets.”
His colleagues echoed the same views, saying they have no alternative means of making a living as most companies have either stopped operating or scaled down production due to the current harsh economic situation in Zimbabwe.
Samuel Wadzanai, director of the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation, said illegal vendors will stay put as long as the Harare City Council does not provide adequate vending cites.
“You have seen that we have reappeared in the streets despite the force they tried to use to remove us from the streets. The issue is not about just removing us but it’s about providing an alternative and unless there are alternatives, vendors will continue to come back into the streets to enable us to look after families under these difficult economic conditions.
“We are back in the streets with full force and the harassment is continuing but we are not going to go back and die at home. We will continue to look after our families from the streets.”
Wadzanai said the collapsing structures that had been put at the designated places are a sign that some resources were allegedly looted by some council officials.
“This was a clear waste of resources. The reason why we have these shaky structures is because somebody is looting from the arrangement. They will put a budget of thousands of dollars yet they have only used $100,000 to erect the tents. We urge them to be serious and use national resources in a serious manner.
UNSUITABLE VENDING SITES
Promise Mkwananzi, director of Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation, concurred adding that the designated new vending sites were not suitable for business.
It is unfortunate that we had a total waste of the minimum resources. We had to build structures in areas that aren’t strategic for the market for the vendors. Council goes on to build infrastructure that is not durable because of corruption taking place. People built cheap things and pocketed the money for themselves rather than building sustainable development facilities for the country.
Mkwananzi warned council that without consultations they will not win the war against vendors.
“Some of the vendors had moved who got places but the vending sites are too far away from the market and they are moving back but more importantly the vending sites were few. The chasing away of vendors is not going to work. It is not the solution. What needs to happen is a dialogue. Identify strategic areas where we can put vending sites and ensure the vending sites are were their business will thrive.”
Meanwhile, the 16 vendors that were arrested last year during skirmishes with local authority municipal security officials and the Zimbabwe Republic Police when they resisted being pushed out of the central business district, currently facing trial.
They are facing charges of resisting a lawful order, among other issues. Wadzanayi said the case has been postponed several times. The trial continues on January 28.-VOA