DEFENCE minister Sydney Sekeramayi has denied reports that the army will descend on street illegal vendors saying that is the duty of the local government ministry.
Speaking to journalists in Kuwadzana where he was addressing a campaign rally for Betty Nhambu-Kaseke, Sekeramayi said utterances by Local government minister, Ignatius Chombo that the army will drive out vendors were wrong and misleading.
“That is the duty of the ministry of local government and the ministry of small to medium enterprises; I hope they are working on that.
“The army will not intervene in that,” he said. If they have problems, they will go to the police not to the army,” said the minister.
On Monday Chombo told a press conference that he would – with the help of the army – push illegal vendors out of the city centres and pack them at designated places.
A member of the feared Joint Operations Command (JOC) in Harare, Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, also said the army was ready to pounce if the vendors defied Chombo’s seven-day ultimatum to move.
“Make sure that your people go to designated places. If they don’t, as JOC, we … will deal with you,” the General told representatives of vendors who attended a meeting with Chombo.
But vendors said they were prepared to fight with the army if they are pushed to areas which not economically viable.
Because of high unemployment, Zimbabwe has virtually become a nation of vendors and almost every street corner has been turned into a vending site, a development which government said is unacceptable.
Sekeremayi said the army would only assist if the situation gets out of hand, adding that “this is highly unlikely.
“That is not possible unless something gets bad, but that will not happen.
“The police and the ministers responsible should do something to solve the situation not say the army will be involved,” he added.
At least two million people are vending in the streets, many of them university graduates who can’t find jobs.
The opposition MDC-T has since pleaded with the army not to participate in the so-called operation to clean the city, saying it was illegal and a breach of the law.
Lawyers, on the other hand, were preparing to fight Chombo in the courts to ensure the army stays in barracks and does not get involved in civil matters.