Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
Goods, including bales of second-hand clothes worth thousands of dollars belonging to illegal vendors, were burnt to ashes in Harare yesterday by unknown assailants who were reportedly driving a pick-up truck without registration numbers.
The incident occurred at the Rezende Street footbridge at around 3am and police are investigating the suspected case of arson.
Illegal vendors kept their wares overnight on the footbridge where they employed guards.
A report was made at Harare Central Police Station and sources said several people had been questioned over the case.
Said chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba: “An informant told police that he saw a pick-up truck without registration number plates and some of the occupants caused the fire, burning the bales. We are not yet sure what these unknown suspects threw at the bales which caused the fire. Investigations are still in progress.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said anyone with information should contact the police and assist with investigations.
Acting Town Clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube denied allegations that municipal police had torched the goods.
“From our own investigations, we found out that the fire was started by their (illegal vendors) guards who were trying to warm themselves,” she said.
The pro-MDC-T National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) director Mr Samuel Wadzai said they were still to ascertain the value of the destroyed goods.
“So far, the numbers of our members who had their wares destroyed is 35 and some had wares valued at over $3 000 that were destroyed,” he said.
“We believe that the municipal police is behind this, although we don’t have enough evidence or any proof. It is unacceptable because this is the time we are saying let’s have dialogue. This will worsen the situation rather than solve it.”
Queen of Grace Zim-Asset Trust national secretary-general Mr Ephraim Chizola, whose organisation had erected tents on the streets for the illegal vendors, said police should get to the bottom of the case. Most of their members, he said, had relocated to the designated area along Seke Road.
But some illegal vendors were still operating in some parts of the streets of Harare yesterday, while municipal police were deployed and continued destroying some of their stalls.
The municipal police destroyed a tent that was erected by the illegal vendors near the intersection of Julius Nyerere Way and Jason Moyo Avenue and also another one at corner Julius Nyerere Way and Charter Road.
Some municipal police trucks were seen loaded with the illegal vendors’ tables.
Harare City Council principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme said they were happy with progress being made to rid the city of the illegal vendors.
“By Monday or Tuesday we are also going to erect tents at the designated sites and we are also looking at constructing cloak rooms at all these sites so that people store their goods and do not carry them home,” he said.
On Thursday, at least 26 illegal vendors were arrested for stoning Harare municipal police officers who were dismantling an illegal vendors’ tent along Speke Avenue.
The illegal vendors paid fines and were released.