AT least 27 informal traders were arrested while six were seriously injured when Harare municipal police fought running battles with street vendors as the bitter war to clean up the capital’s streets escalated yesterday.
The vendors were refusing to move from the central business district (CBD) to designated sites on the city’s outskirts.
Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere insisted there was no turning back on government’s directive to move vendors from the CBD.
Taken from Newsday
At the time of going to print last night, 24 of them had paid a $20 fine each for disorderly conduct while three others were still detained at Harare Central Police Station.
Their lawyers Tonderai Bhatasara, Kudzayi Kadzere, Trust Maanda, Maureen Sibanga-Shonge and Agnes Muzondo were making frantic efforts to have them released.
Violence broke out when municipal police officers destroyed a vending tent pitched close to Town House.
The vendors then ganged up and engaged in running battles with the council police.
Zimbabwe Informal Traders Organisation leader Promise Mkwananzi said they suspected that the army could have been used in the operation disguised as council police.
“We condemn the heavy-handedness of the State that has also failed the economy, government should exercise restraint,” he said.
“We will be back tomorrow (today) until things are sorted. The skill and efficiency which the vendors were decimated reflects military training.
“It could be that the regime shied away from a total operation by camouflaging the army and Zanu PF apparatchiks with municipal uniforms.”
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum also condemned the violent eviction of vendors.
“The use of excessive force by municipal police resulted in serious injuries to six vendors and the arrests of 29 vendors,” the rights group said.
National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe director Samuel Wadzai warned Kasukuwere against “getting too excited”.
“Six of our members were badly injured and have been taken to hospital now,” he said.
“Our position remains that the minister should not be over-excited because he has this so-called hot ministry for him.
“We want to call him for dialogue so that we have common ground.”
He said vendors had since petitioned the minister to desist from applying brute force.
However, Kasukuwere warned against politicisation of the matter adding that lawlessness would not be allowed.
He said he had met Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni “and agreed that vendors must go”.
“We cannot allow lawlessness in the country just because of politics,” he said.
“It is his party (MDC-T) which has the moral authority to remove the vendors and it is their voters who are complaining about vendors in the city so people must not try to politicise this issue.”
Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said they were happy with the progress made describing the violent clashes as “plucking of rogue elements”.
“We are happy with compliance so far. It’s about the vendors who did not want to be relocated,” he said.
“These guys were removed from the crowd to avoid inciting further violence.”
Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum declared war on the municipal police if the arrested vendors were not released.
“Our position has been that of a tripartite negotiation forum between vendors, the ministry and City of Harare,” the forum said in a statement.
“Vendors are equal human beings who are empirically contributing to local economic development of our city.
“We condemn this arrest as barbaric, inhuman and uncalled for.
“If those vendors are not released, we are prepared to meet the municipal police in the streets of Harare.”
The government had given vendors across the country until June 26 to leave undesignated trading sites, but the ultimatum was largely ignored.
Vendors said the government must first deliver on its promise of 2,2 million jobs made in the run-up to the 2013 elections.