War on vendors escalates

HARARE - Life on the streets is getting harder and rougher for Harare’s desperate vendors, some of whom lost their wares worth tens of thousands of dollars on Thursday night, which they had left locked up in the disused Speke Avenue footbridge close to Town House — heightening tensions between the hawkers and authorities.

The affected vendors, who were in tears yesterday when the Daily News visited the scene of the mysterious fire, fingered authorities for their loss, with many of them explaining in harrowing detail how the government’s controversial directive to have them removed from the city centre was destroying their livelihoods.

On its part, Harare City Council denied that its police had set the street traders’ wares on fire, including second hand clothes, saying as determined as the city was to remove unregistered vendors from the central business district, destroying their property was never part of the plan.

Vendors try to salvage something after their wares were burnt by the Harare City Council as part of efforts to drive them out of the Harare CBD. Pic: Darius Mutamba

Acting Harare Town clerk, Josephine Ncube, said it was out of question that council would burn vendors’ wares.

“The city of Harare did not burn the goods at the footbridge. We have no reason to do that. What our officers have on record is that there are guards employed by the vendors to safeguard goods during the night. It is those guards who lit a fire because of the low temperatures and that fire caught onto the goods at the footbridge,” she said.

Asked to comment on allegations that council employees were looting goods belonging to fleeing vendors, Ncube said this was not true.

“We are engaging the vendors and we are asking them to take their goods to the designated places. We have not taken any of their goods,” she added.

But vendors dismissed Ncube’s assertions, insisting that they were losing goods daily to municipal police officers.

But it did not appear as if the Speke Avenue fire, which reduced the vendors’ wares to ashes, had broken the spine of the street traders as many of them insisted that they would continue to trade in the city centre.

Similarly, the fire did not seem to diminish the resolve of the city fathers to remove all vendors from the CBD and place them in allotted spaces that the street vendors say do not have ablution facilities.

Even as the Speke Avenue vendors were watching the smouldering remains of their wares, municipal police and other council workers were pulling down tables around the city and threatening those who were resisting to be moved with serious action.

In desperation, some traders yesterday besieged Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni’s office with a petition demanding a stop to the vicious clampdown.

Maria Kakono,18, an orphan whose livelihood depends entirely on vending, said the government’s move to boot them out of the city centre was not only inhuman, but also insensitive to the economic plight of the have-nots.

“I had borrowed the capital ($350) to buy my goods and now how will I pay this back? And while they are burning my stuff as a vendor they are letting sex workers work freely in the same city. I don’t know how I’m going to manage,” Kakono said with tears flowing down her hunger-stricken face.

Another vendor, Godknows Zulu, 19, said his parents had raised him through vending, and now that his goods had been destroyed in the Thursday night fire, he was not sure how he was going to survive.

“My parents and I have been surviving on this trade. Then you wake-up to find everything has been burnt to ashes. Unopera simba, unoita blank (it saps you of energy and numbs your thoughts,” he said.

A female vendor, Emma Efelemu,  42, who was arrested along with 28 others before being released upon payment of a fine on Wednesday, said she had lost “everything” including her “basic rights” during the crackdown.

“My rights are being violated by my own people. This is even worse than xenophobia. They dragged me in the road because I had asked to pack my wares before they took me in custody,” she said wailing uncontrollably.

A desperate leader of the Unemployed Mobile Youths Foundation, Peter Jack, warned Manyenyeni yesterday that things could soon turn volatile as the vendors now felt that no one cared for them and their families.

“It’s not true that vendors can’t fight back, but we prefer dialogue. Treat us the same way you treated the commuter omnibus relocation. Now you have manpower for us but you didn’t have manpower to stop Chipangano when it took over people’s tables in Mbare,” he fumed.

But Manyenyeni distanced himself from the latest clean-up campaign, telling journalists at his offices that he was not even consulted when municipal police went on a rampage this week, leaving a trail of destruction.

“If it was my personal business I could give you answers now. Council and government operate differently, but I heard what you said. Now it’s being said the mayor unleashed police. I never spoke to them,” he complained.

Although the government deadline for vendors to move out of city centres lapsed last month, Saviour Kasukuwere’s arrival at the ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing appears to have given impetus to the much-condemned clean-up.

The combative minister warned on his first day in his new office that if the city fathers, especially in Harare, did not clean up the mess brought about by street traders, he would clean up Town House.

It seems that his threats have been taken to heart by local authorities as municipal workers are now mercilessly removing vendors.

A snap survey by the Daily News yesterday showed that while many vendors had already been flushed from their usual trading points, many were still lined up on pavements as they desperately defied the council.

Comments (13)

In a half decent country the Mayor would make a stand before resigning. It is a question all of us in a position of privilege must face. When things are done under our watch in a way we don't approve, is our appetite for the perks of office stronger than the wish to serve.

John Banda - 11 July 2015

What pains me is that these vendors are Zimbabweans suffering in their own country yet we have a government with leaders elected by people to serve. If these vendors were experiencing this in a foreign land I would be consoled knowing that its not their country.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 11 July 2015

Ah zvakaoma vakomana, zvino kana toitirana hutsinyn'e hwakadai tega zvakanakawo here hama. Zvichapera hazvo.

misty - 11 July 2015

most vendors are single parents and orphans ummmm ,vakuru vakati nherera izhinji musarova dzavamwe mangwana munozofa mukasiya dzenyuwo

Dorcas Marecha - 12 July 2015

It is clear and very clear that zanu bunt the vendors 's properties to create problem for the mdc t led council . Why try to look for someone else when we all know zanu does not like people including those who vote for it and its ministers are always inflict pain on people by introducing foolish programs which are anti human . ZANU burnt the vendors 's belongings finish and klaa ,

Diibulaanyika - 12 July 2015

its a pure zanu way of solving problems

statesmam - 12 July 2015

we can cal this and that guys i think all we know the best.

choga - 12 July 2015

Well zanu had been saying they do not want vendors in town so it is obvious they set fire on some second hand stuff .So the only solution is to look for the thugs and set fire on their batox that is the only way to solving the problem and if the spirit of humbwende goes away from the victims of zanu thugs sure the arsonists can be tracked and be burnt as police will not arrest any one from zanu and in this case vendors take responsibilty douse the idiots if you do not do that you are going to die of hunger .

Diibulaanyika - 12 July 2015

If it wasn't for Grace for wanted to get votes by telling authorities to leave vendors alone. we wouldn't be having this problem. Vendors thought Grace was doing a good thing for them zvino Zanu iye yavapandukira

Ndosvotwa Mhani - 13 July 2015


Ndosvotwa Mhani - 13 July 2015

Zviro zviya zvave matengumutinya nguo dzouswa. kuti ugare dzinotyoka, kuti umire makumbo anorwadza, kuti udziye moto dzinotsva, kuti uende zve kure nemoto unotonhorwa.

matengu - 13 July 2015

MDC has nothing to do with that.its Tyson's instructions.Tyson is a real destroyer.People must know that zanu pf doesn't need the people who voted them in power.Wait and see next year ,they will be having sweet tongues .We too Zimbas , are also fools.Tsvangison thats the time you must tell the people about how cruel Zanu is.Don't get tired we are behind you.

Deva - 13 July 2015

Zvakaoma. The City Fathers have no control of these things whatsoever. They are never given the power or mandate to. How can the Minister call for the removal of vendors without the knowledge of the Mayor. We all know the truth of what is happening, we are not fools... people know even those who burnt the vendors' wares.

Deliverance Needed - 14 July 2015

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