Fear of uprising behind vendors clean-up

HARARE - Fears of a revolt against the government, amid a worsening economic crisis in the country and deepening infighting within President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF, are apparently behind the government’s belated order that illegal street vendors vacate cities and towns or risk arrest.

The decision has torched a storm with the main opposition, the MDC and vendors themselves yesterday expressing outrage at the decision saying Zanu PF had failed to create employment hence cannot chase away vendors.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that “fear of an uprising similar to the Tunisian revolt” and subsequent Arab Spring were the major reason why the government  had finally made this necessary move, and why the military had been roped in to clear the vendors off urban streets.

The National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe claims to have six million vendors under its umbrella nationwide, and more than 100 000 members in Harare alone.

Provincial Joint Operations Command (Joc) member, brigadier-general Anselem Sanyatwe, was among those who warned vendors on Monday to comply with the government’s one-week ultimatum to vacate the streets, that ends on Sunday, after which law enforcement agents will arrest those who resist the order.

“If they don’t, as Joc ... we will deal with you,” Sanyatwe said ominously — in the move that appears to fly in the face of pronouncements by controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe at the height of Zanu PF’s infighting late last year that vendors be left alone to conduct their business as they wished.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a news conference yesterday that his party was extremely disturbed by the announcement by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to use the Zimbabwe National Army to remove vendors from the streets of the cities, towns and growth points throughout Zimbabwe.

“The Zanu PF regime must not abuse the national army to cover for its failures,” Tsvangirai said.

“The regime must take full responsibility for the suffering that the people are going through after it failed to fulfil its election promises of creating two million jobs. Against the background of a comatose economy and unfulfilled electoral promises, the Zanu PF regime must instead resign in shame rather than unleash the army on innocent citizens struggling to eke out a decent living.”

Tsvangirai said “the army must refuse to be used against their brothers, sisters and even their wives and husbands who are trying to salvage an honest living from vending under the prevailing difficult circumstances”.

“The MDC would like to strongly warn the Zanu PF regime to exercise restraint and to be wary of a restive and hungry population,” he said.

Announcing the move, Chombo said claims of undue political pressure on local authorities to leave street vendors alone were more of perception than reality as Zimbabwe was “a law-abiding country”.

“We have agreed that by next Monday, vendors should be at designated places. This applies to all cities and towns,” Chombo said while addressing mayors, town clerks, senior council officials and representatives of vendors’ associations in Harare.

“As the responsible authority in your respective councils, I expect you to restore order in this area (illegal vending) with immediate effect.”

Asked why street vending had been allowed to flourish, Chombo said that was now water under the bridge and that this now needed to stop.

But well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that the security sector was increasingly concerned about the chaotic street vending in urban areas and the “fertile ground for an uprising this is creating, especially in Harare” and now wanted this dealt with.

“The fear is that the worsening economic situation in the country, coupled with rising desperation and political tension in Zanu PF could ignite an uprising in Zimbabwe, with unregulated street vendors posing a security threat.

“You will remember that the rebellion in Tunisia was started by a vendor and all hell subsequently broke loose. So, authorities are simply trying to deal with the fertile ground for an uprising this is creating, especially in Harare,” one of the sources said.

However, despite the threats to forcefully remove the vendors from central business districts, many street traders yesterday said they would stay put in the areas where they were currently operating from as they had no other way of making a living.

Samuel Wadzai, director of National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz), told a news conference yesterday that vendors will not move.

“Zimbabwe is not in a State of emergency and inviting the army and the police to fight vendors is as good as declaring war on livelihoods,” he said.

“Forceful removal of millions of vendors from the CBDs of all cities in Zimbabwe will be reminiscent of the Gukurahundi of the early 1980s or even Operation Murambatsvina and we will not tolerate such manoeuvres to bring civil unrest in our beloved country.”

The union, which claims to have six million vendors under its umbrella nationwide, and more than 100 000 members in Harare alone — a figure that includes many disabled people — has said previously that it was sad that authorities were taking long to accept that Zimbabwe was now a “vendor nation” out of necessity.

“Chasing vendors away from the streets when we are already suffering an unemployment rate of at least 80 percent makes you really wonder what we are trying to do as a country.

“On one hand, one national policy is preaching that we need to create jobs and here we are as vendors on the streets creating jobs and sustaining livelihoods,” Navuz chairperson, Stan Zvorwadza, said.

“On the other hand, another section of government is busy chasing vendors away. If you look at it, it is a big contradiction.”

Many vendors who spoke to the Daily News recently blamed the misrule and corruption of Mugabe’s Zanu PF government for the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy which had resulted in vending becoming the main means of survival in the country.

And in line with what Navuz is saying, they also vowed to continue selling their assortment of wares — ranging from foodstuffs to electrical gadgets and clothes — on the streets.

“It is not our wish to be vendors, our circumstances force us to be here. Our heartless leaders should first give us alternatives to do something else before they ask us to vacate the streets,” said a vendor who only identified herself as Mai Sean.

“I am surviving from vending on the streets and that is my life. I don’t like doing this but I’ve no choice. If we are removed, we should be given an alternative project to do. They would have to take our last breath before they move us away from the streets,” said another vendor who did not wish to be identified.

Indeed, many Zimbabweans from different stations in life have been reduced to street vending to survive the harsh economic environment prevailing in the country following the closure of thousands of companies in the past four years alone that has seen hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs.

From qualified professionals, to graduates and children living on the streets, all of them are finding solace in selling various wares in both urban and rural areas as the deepening economic crisis continues to bite, with no respite in sight.

Zimbabwe’s economy, which had showed some signs of revival during the era of the government of national unity, is desperately gasping for breath as a result of poor policies, a tight liquidity crunch,  rampant company closures and rising unemployment.

According to the World Food Programme, 72 percent of the country’s population is currently living below the poverty datum line.

And due to the high unemployment rate — which some economists estimate to be above 90 percent — the country’s major cities in particular are reeling from an ever-rising influx of vendors who have invaded virtually every available street and pavement in urban areas, making it difficult for citizens to navigate their way and creating health challenges in the process.

Zanu PF crafted a five-year economic blueprint called ZimAsset in 2013 which includes a provision for job creation through self-reliance.

But although the blueprint promised to create more than 2,2 million jobs, economic experts say not a single job has been created by government in the last two years.

On the contrary, many factories and companies have closed shop, forcing hundreds of thousands of employees to join the ranks of the unemployed — which has in turn contributed to the mushrooming of vendors all over the country.

Comments (35)

If you lie always you never live a free life . This govt is so scared that even hearing the choko choko noise of a gundwane foraging for food in the thicket it feints . Why is it so self guilty?World over no soldiers have been used to control vendors never only in this country and that has made them loss their respect and become mangamanga . Come monday all sodiers for the first time must stand with masses fight the evil failing to do so will mean they will also die of hunger as their wives and sister selling to make a living in the city .

Diibulaanyika - 3 June 2015

You reporters are a really poorly schooled. Saka kumusha hakuchina vanhuzve! If there are 6 million vendors then everyone is a vendor. We are only a country of 14million including day olds.So how do you have 6 million vendors. Ok put it this way if every vendor supports a family of 3 people then we will have 6x3 = 18 million people

dick mboko - 3 June 2015

@dick mboko - the reporter correctly indicated that the six million vendors number is a claim being made by a certain organisation. Reporter haana mhosva apa

Sydney - 3 June 2015

@dick mboko.....that figure may not be exactly correct but the fact is 3/4 or so of the adults in zim have turned to vending because of lack of jobs in the country and that is a fact. Instead of the govt finding ways to attract foreign investors to boost the economy vaakutanga kunetsana nevanhu varikuedza kuita an honest living? I think they are under-estimating the kind of frustration and hurt that people have, this may end up really bad because i'm sure the vendors will not take that lightly as that's their only source of income. Ndozvinoitika kana nyika ikatongwa nevanhu vasina kuvhoterwa ne ruzhinji rwe Zimbabwe. Maiti zvinosvikepiko? Iye mugabe achingomberereka kufamba and embarrassing himself and his children, this is so shameful!!

redemption - 3 June 2015

Zanu PF must swallow their pride and resign , the army if its is professional as they claim , why are they interfering with the work of the local council and police , is Chombo now the commander in chief of the army , we told long back that Mugabe is a stuge of the army they are just using him and his name otherwise he is useless , 2 yrs in office but you don't address the parliament or the nation of what is happening , this time you lost it you can not rig the elections , sanctions sanctions while you are protecting thieves , icho charira , kupiko mustreet , pamberi nevending untill we get the 2 million jobs , ko Zunde were are you shokoshoko , you are dead.

Mudhara - 3 June 2015

6 million? do your estimates correctly. ndosaka isu ve MDC-T takadyiwa last elections. yu were lying again about opinion polls and our president MT and the entire party relaxed yet ZANU PF was bisy campaigning. Plz write real figures not ekungofunga kuti nyaya dzenyu dzinakidze

wind - 3 June 2015

@wind....zvema figures hazvisirizvo zvine basa come on.

redemption - 3 June 2015

@ redemption never mind about those who are talking about figures they are cio trying to twist the debate . Figures are are useless correct or not the bottom line is on monday tomatoes must be used to pelt they who will harass vendors

Diibulaanyika - 3 June 2015

this hurumendi is using the army designed to protect the masses to further harass an already impoverished mass. 6m, more or less, the bottom line is the vending population is just to much. everyone is now a vendor so the figure has some element of truth. Imaging 'smart phones' selling along r Mugabe way, 2nd hand footwear, clothing, cars, CDs, groceries, roasted corn/maize; name whatever and I will tell you on which street its being sold. South Africans burned & killed these vendors in their country barely a month ago; why did they not killed Europeans, Indians & other Asian foreigners. Now chombo has hired the army to remove its own civilian relatives when their own salaries can afford these street wares! zanu is now in a dilemma and I think this is time for final push.

Samanyia Chaiye - 3 June 2015


educare - 3 June 2015

An uprising by coward who are afraid of tilling the land, rubbish. It does not take a week to flush out all those filthy idiots, and the majority really don't give a damn about them. Its only some few political idiots trying to capitalise on an awkward skewed mentality from a group of lazy scoundrels.

reason - 4 June 2015

@ This exactly gukurahundi language . You have mastered it to the point that now you speak like him self big gu kurahundi Mugabe . Every thing that you utter lacks reason in it bcoz you are gukurahundi . You and Mugabe have a tendence of insulting the citizens of the country like what he did to people of Mbare and recently to BaKalanga . But the funny thing is you cant notice your smelling mlomo .

Diibulaanyika - 4 June 2015

Stop harassing innocent vendors. Create the 2,2 million jobs you promised them and they will be out the streets in less than a week. This gvt has failed. Why don't they look for a formular for rigging the economy.

Dr. Tichy - 4 June 2015

Are you looking for trouble or solutions? Vendors' rights do not supercede all other citizens' rights including the established shop owners whose entrances are being blocked by these beloved vendors. If the bulk of people are in Harare, how does a vendor association with 6 million members only have 100 000 members in Harare? Kana vanhu vanzi ngavaende kuma designated sites where is the problem? Herald published sites as given by City of Harare but other newspapers are making that a non event because you wish to see continued chaos reigning in the country. Illegal activity attracts arrest period. Advise your friends and relatives appropriately as you wont find time to bring them food kujeri kwavachaenda for insisting on breaking the law

Mubaiwa - 4 June 2015

the representative of the vendors holds a maters degree and yet he is also a vendor. that goes to tell how desperate our situation has become. i wish the authorities allowed for more time for these people to realign with alternative means. i don't think rushing them off the cbd would solve the problem. better to talk and find better alternatives than heavy-handedness.

taurai - 4 June 2015

Minister Chombo addressed local council leaders accompanied by everyone who matters as a stakeholder showing a united front against behaviour that clearly doesnt benefit anyone or the country. in the aftermath no one can claim to be a political victim or that a certain party is ok with what he is doing. This should have been celebrated as a belated attempt to clean the country and restore order. Vending is still legal in the country but only from approved sites which is what it should be like.

Mubaiwa - 4 June 2015

@ taurai what is heavy handed about asking vendors to operate from designated sites? There has always been designated vending sites in Harare; avondale, sam levy village, mupedzanhamo in mbare. Not everyone goes to every site, but as with all businesses customers will come to where you are if you are able to supply their needs. Most people might not have set foot in mupedzanhamo but i doubt if the traders there have ever complained of not getting enquiries and business. Lets balance and respect everyone's rights and interests

Mubaiwa - 4 June 2015

Designated areas can not hold 100 000 plus vendors in Harare alone and these areas are not economically viable bcoz those who created them no nothings about marketing or economics . If you use soldiers on unarmed civilians that is satanic and heavy handedness . The solution is to create 2m jobs or resign from govt simply as that .

Diibulaanyika - 4 June 2015

@mubaiwa, do you require to use the army to remove vendors on the streets, that is heavy handedness. this shows a govt that has failed to address the vending business a long time ago and now that it is mushrooming, they decide to force people from the streets. they must come up with alternatives better still create the 2.2million jobs they promised and we will see if they will be anyone on the streets. We are being led by a people who are full of lies and that is why our nation is where it is now.

pride - 4 June 2015

Anyone harassing the majority is asking for trouble and death .

Diibulaanyika - 4 June 2015

"shameless efforts of failures " Chombo is trying to destroy everything and has been behind suffering of people.He has never done anything to the nation but to talk rubbish and nonsence.

Christopher Makumbe - 4 June 2015

Its very sad indeed , people who are vending are doing so not by choice but by circumstance .The need to feed the hungry family members is driving them to do so .

SOBER SENSE - 4 June 2015

you can rig elections but you cannot rig the economy,where are the 2 millon jobs we where promised buy mugabe and zanu failure

wiwa - 4 June 2015

Diibulaanyika, don't mislead people. urikufurira vanhu. u are commenting this in the comfort of your office and you are waiting for another article claiming soldiers have been pelted by tomatoes! that wont happen in Zim. Zimbabweans are not that militant. we have gone thru all hell but look where we are. never a civil uprising. So this crap of saying people pelting armed forces with stones is an unreal dream. the next thing is noone will be seen selling in the city centre but designated selling points. This vendor organisation claiming to have ao many numbers is a political party masquarading as a vendor organisation to incite an uprising from vendors who would think that we are many yet they are just a handfull. Vending isnt being abolished no but regulated and allowed to operate in an orderly manner. Not seeing matomatoes in first street NO. madhisinyongoro kwete

Madhisinyongoro kwete - 4 June 2015

@mandishonyongoro clearly you are Chombo 's imbwa and now you are barking on his behalf . It is not soldiers's duty to harass vendors who have nothing to eat at home and if it is a political party that is encouraging them to sell vegetables in the city that party is doing a sterling jobs otherwise many people would have died of hunger which mandisongola wants to see . Your cio job is becoming cheap bcoz you are now being used to herd poor vendors , Is pelting soldiers with tomatoes dangerous? blood saka liyatsha .

Diibulaanyika - 4 June 2015

Our army and police has really been another problem in failing to revolt against our ruthless leaders give them orders to do such bad moves.I pray our brothers and sisters in the army should wake up and smell the coffee and rise against such actions which Chombo is planning.People in the streets are breadwinners of families and they survive by that and it would really be shamefull if our army harass these people.Its about time they need to rise and tell their leaders that they cant be used to do such inhuman activities.Why cant our security forces learn from the securiTy forces of Burundi who recently rebelled against their bad leaders.The army and police should avoid being used by our leaders please.People are suffering and we desperately need a change.

reply - 4 June 2015

Any sane politician would stop to find out why there is such an infux of vendors. These are Zimbabweans, not foreigners! Address the causes not symptoms of the problem. Put in place policies that would attract FDI`s and there you have it! But then our minister of industry goes on to tour a supermarket in Harare to see what products are being imported which can be produced locally! My foot! Where does he live? Leave the vendors alone until you solve the underlying problems.

Mutongi Gava - 4 June 2015

This story is fictional. Zimbabweans (particularly the Shonas) are real cowards. They are only partly relevant when working in mobs (Zanu pf style). During the so called armed struggle the record measured distance between the footprints of the galloping away “heroes” was 27 feet!

Frank McCafferty - 4 June 2015

@mubaiwa, the process appears to be haste and seems to lack proper planning and consideration for those who have been earning a leaving this way. i think any responsible government should not been seen to be propagating its people's misery but rather empowering them economically. that appears to bet the whole point of pursuing indigenization. yes we cannot have a city that is littered with chaos but it is important to give people a sound alternative.

taurai - 4 June 2015

Yes we truly have economic and employment issues, but you cannot just wake up and decide to go and sell your wares outside and an establishment that is contributing revenue to the Country. These shops will in the end close because you are selling the same products outside its does. Lets wake up to reality people. These vendors must go to where they are allowed to sell. Period! Kana vasingakwane then thats it, pakazara! Tsvaga kumwe! Lets bring back some sanity to our Cities; #it was about time!!

Mwendas - 4 June 2015

at mwendos,what needs to be addressed is the root of the problem beofore you go on to blame vendors because they are not in the streets because they love,Our government has failed and MUST step down, people are trying to find all means possible to survive and want to put the blame on them,that bullshit.The gvt should provide jobs for those people before they chase them away.

reply - 4 June 2015

People jus do not learn, not so long ago murambatsvina yakarova vanhu for building houses pese pese but to date houses are being build everywhere, we should always be aware of what the law says, pavarikutengesera hapaite that's a fact,they should find something else to do cz business rawandirwa or go at designated places. The government ddnt meet its promise of jobs but why make the situation worse by selling everywhere disadvantaging the few shops running, tarnishing our image and leaving us prone to diseases. You should have protested for the closure of companies not protest for wanting to sell mu road

Murambatvina Part2 - 4 June 2015

What image that can be tarnished that is nonsense kuphela swine. You say murambaswina destroyed houses and now houses are being built again so can t you see that the govt failed and people won hence they are building their shacks again . Even africa 's richest city the city of gold with clean water best roads where everything is kicking has vendors every way to make matters worst those vendors most of them are foreigners but are not chased away from streets like gundwanes .

Diibulaanyika - 4 June 2015

If the gorvenment was legit and seriously engaged in trying to revive the economy, I would say that was good move. One day, the worm will turm. @McCafferty You obviously have a thing about the Shona but seriously , your contribution is inane on such a grave topic. Anyway, if they were so cowardly, how come they chased you rhodies out of Zim?

Muzungu Moyo - 5 June 2015

Masoja nemapurisa vakazotanga kufunga rini? Vanotofungirwa thats why training yavo iri ye six months.havagone kufunga.limited reasoning scope.

Chitsiga - 5 June 2015

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