• Mayor blinks first, concedes defeat, seeks ministerial help
• Vendors in fistfights, troop back into the streets
Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter
There was chaos in Harare yesterday when municipal police pulled down illegal vendors’ tents and tables to force them off the streets, but their action was in vain as the traders were back on the streets and pavements within hours.
The vendors appeared to have responded positively to the relocation as they left the illegal vending sites upon being ordered to do so, but returned to illegal street and pavement vending despite the presence of municipal police and the watchful eyes of the Zimbabwe Republic Police .
ZRP officers were present on the streets, but did not take part in the exercise as they only monitored developments from their vehicles.
There were fistfights among illegal vendors who had rushed to some of the designated sites upon discovering that council had double allocated some of the vending booths.
The fighting ended after the vendors restrained each other and agreed that it was not their fault that vending booths had been double allocated.
Harare mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni said yesterday that council had no capacity to remove the vendors and was now seeking a meeting with Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere for help.
The mayor said he had since cancelled a foreign trip so that he could meet the minister.
“I would want to see the minister after I meet officials on the ground so that we can present to him what we think are our shortcomings inasmuch as the relocation of the vendors is concerned.”
The city authorities had earlier vowed not to remove the illegal vendors, arguing that they were following the opposition MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s utterances that Government must not act on them.
Harare City Council is dominated by MDC-T councillors.
But Minister Kasukuwere yesterday said it was the responsibility of Clr Manyenyeni to ensure that city by-laws are followed.
“The mayor is in charge of making sure that the city’s by-laws are adhered to.
“I have not heard the mayor saying he has failed to contain the situation. All we want is a clean environment where business is conducted freely.”
Minister Kasukuwere on Monday warned council authorities that if they did not clean up the mess brought by vendors, he would instead clean up Town House.
He also vowed to end lawlessness in Harare and other local authorities saying he wanted to see the upholding of law and good administration of both rural and urban areas.
Vendors told The Herald that they were willing to move to the designated sites, but there was no infrastructure and ablution facilities.
It is council’s responsibility to provide the required infrastructure at the vending sites.
A fruit vendor, Mr Proud Mureverwa, who registered to trade at Copacabana, blamed council for making double allocations.
“Council allocated us to sell from here, but we were surprised when a group of vendors whose tents were pulled down by council came here claiming to have been allocated the same booths to sell their wares,” he said.
“This is the reason you saw vendors exchanging blows. We cannot have fruit and clothing vendors trading from the same place.”
Ms Martha Sithole, a clothing vendor, said after the city council pulled down their tents they had no choice but to go to Copacabana where they were allocated the booths.
“We were also given vendor cards to operate at Copacabana, but it seems the city made a double allocation,” she said.
The city’s principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme admitted that the city had made double allocations.
“The issue of double allocation is an administration issue which we are currently looking at,” he said. “We are happy with the progress and the way our municipal police are handling the matter.”
National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) director Mr Samuel Wadzanai said vendors will remain put if the city did not facilitate proper infrastructure for them to trade.
“Our members are still operating at their respective sites,” he said. “We will move out once council provides us with proper infrastructure, not open spaces without ablution facilities.”
Other vendors’ unions said they were prepared to move to the designated areas while the city council makes finishing touches in providing the required infrastructure.