Take us back, Gweru vendors tell council

BULAWAYO – Hundreds of informal Gweru traders, who were relocated to a site outside the central business district (CBD) ahead of former president Robert Mugabe’s visit for the Zanu PF youth interface rally there early in September have described their relocation as tantamount to dumping.

Since their forced relocation from the Old Post Office on short notice to pave way for Mugabe’s visit, the vendors spoke of harrowing tales of poverty as they were technically thrown out of business.

As if that is not enough, the vendors who spoke to the Southern News over the weekend also showed the news crew how the rains had flooded their new business place at the Swift open space.

Most of the stalls were deserted as the water flooded some parts of the new site, making the place inaccessible and difficult to operate from. To make matters worse, some parts of the site were muddy as a result of the rains which made movement tough.

The Southern News also witnessed some bringing their own quarry stones and bricks just to make sure the place was conducive for their work and for customers.

“As you can see what is happening, water is all over, we can’t work,” said one vendor Munetsi Imbayago.

“The council literally dumped us here, without first constructing stalls and at least a wide pavement for us. Now what it means for the entire rain season we will be out of business as you can see that its mud and water all over,” he said.

Another vendor only identified as Mai Sithabile had this to say: “The worst part is that when the council brought us here, they promised to make this place a better and conducive working place but now two months down the line, nothing has been done, all they tell us is they will attend to our problems.”

She also said while they appreciated that council was pushed by Zanu PF security and politicians to force their relocation, it’s time they considered the vendors’ welfare.

“We know it’s Mugabe who caused all this. Now that he is gone, they should do the honourable thing and return us to the Old Post office, that’s where we belong and that’s where our customers are, not here in the bush where they just threw us away to rot. Disappointingly, council wants its monthly rates from us. They don’t care whether we are making money or not. In reality, we are not as you can see but the billing continues and most of us have debts running almost into a thousand dollars,” she said.

Some who spoke to this paper also appealed to council to return them to their original place while council fixes the new site to be suitable for their business.

Contacted for comment, Gweru Residents Forum (GRF) director Charles Mazorodze said council had long proved that it was a failure in managing the vending issue in the city.

“It’s a chaotic situation here look at how council manages the vendors, they remove them and dump them anywhere where there is no sanitation, there are no proper toilets, no proper market stalls. I strongly believe citing a shop should be in line with demand where the market is,” Mazorodze said.

“The market for those people is in town. Informal vending is a reality in any given country even in developed countries, so all they need is to address this situation properly without inviting poverty to these poor vendors,” he said.

Mazorodze said, Gweru city fathers should bear in mind that the economic situation has made it difficult for many unemployed residents to make ends meet, with vending becoming the necessary alternative.

Gweru mayor Charles Chikozho said they were in the process of addressing the challenges.

“We are aware of the challenges and we are in the process of addressing the problems to ensure that vendors work in a proper environment,” he said.

Asked about the appeal by vendors to be relocated, the mayor said it was not an option as they will improve the site. He also said it was a matter of time before customers get used to the new site just as much as they had gotten used to the old site.