Police, vendors clash

HARARE - Clashes broke out in Harare’s CBD yesterday as police moved to evict vendors from the city.

Violence erupted as a team of State and municipal police tried to remove vendors, with angry informal traders throwing bricks and other missiles at police.

Police had to use batons and teargas to quell the skirmishes.

At least 26 people were injured.

Residents’ pressure groups condemned the unrest, but the Harare City Council (HCC) insisted it will spare no effort to flash out the vendors.

HCC spokesperson, Michael Chideme, said the blitz against vendors will continue.

“We are on a mission to enforce the ban against vending in the city. We, however, encourage those in the trade not to attack enforcement which is on duty,” he said.

The clash is one of the biggest in Harare since the massive pro-democracy street protests last year.

On the back of a deteriorating economy, vendors selling all sorts of staff, including cooked and uncooked food, have become a common sight in the Harare CBD year-round.

Officials usually turn a blind eye to the hawkers’ lack of official permits, but this year they decided to crack down after typhoid broke out in the high density suburb of Mbare.

An estimated 150 people have been infected with the contagious disease, which causes diarrhoea and can be fatal, the HCC has said.

An inter-ministerial committee led by the Health minister David Parirenyatwa has banned the sale of cooked and uncooked food in a bid to curb typhoid.

Ahead of the clearance operation, hundreds of vendors had gathered in the area to defend the hawkers.

Police said the vendors and activists were told to leave but ignored the warnings.

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) director, Samuel Wadzai, said the clash was the height of cowardice by law enforcement agents.

“We are in the streets because the same government has failed, and failed rather dismally, to live up to its election promise of creating two million jobs. Is it not barbarism that the same government decides to go after us who are seeking to survive through honest and constitutional means?” he asked rhetorically.

He said instead of unleashing violence, which he said will not solve anything; HCC should expedite the regularisation of vending activities.

“What is needed is a holistic and humane intervention that takes into consideration the fact that as vendors we are genuinely trying to survive in the face of nearly 90 percent unemployment rate,” he said.

Residents Forum coordinator, Denford Ngadziore, said the attack on vendors was a clear reflection of the dearth of the rule of law and democratic principles in Zimbabwe.

He said the State and council are using much needed resources on innocent civilians instead of channelling them to more important things.

“The police should protect the vendors not harass them. To leave the street is not an option unless the government has provided jobs,” Ngadziore said.

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