Municipal cops, vendors clash leaves 6 injured

HARARE - Six municipal police officers were injured last weekend after they were attacked by vendors in the central business district in an operation to rid the city of illegal hawkers.

The fierce run-ins started at the intersection of Cameron Street and Jason Moyo Avenue and the vendors chased after the law enforcement agents.

Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the attack resulted in some of the officers being hospitalised.

“They were attacked and injured during the course of their duty; everyone has been asking why we do not extend our operations into the night. And we have been doing so.

“They came prepared and started attacking the officers,” Chideme said.

“All six were taken to hospital for treatment and five details were hospitalised at Parirenyatwa (Group of Hospitals), one of them suffered a fractured leg.

“What we want to say is that the public should respect the police. They are there to preserve order.

“We think we will seek the assistance of our friends in the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Harare is the face of Zimbabwe, so we need to maintain order.”

The council has been appealing to the public to cooperate with municipal police and council traffic enforcement, following a rise in the assault of its officers.

The assaults come as HCC has been carrying out random raids on illegal vendors operating in the city centre.

About 40 cases of assault of officers have been reported by the council.

Chideme earlier told the Daily News that the number of assault cases had become worrisome for council as they are unwarranted and towards people who are working within the confines of the law.

“These vendors clandestinely carry stones in satchels and pushcarts and when confronted by our officers, they start throwing the missiles.

“It becomes a full-on war when they start retaliating. We have made reports to the ZRP to this effect,” Chideme said then.

According to the latest informal sector committee minutes, the operations have not been all peaceful as vendors have violently retaliated.

Many people turned into vending after losing their jobs, with at least over 85 percent of Zimbabweans seeking employment.

The increase of vendors on the streets of Harare was also worsened recently with the increase in prices for basic commodities as manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers took advantage of a lull in the monitoring of prices, blamed on the shortage of cash, to raise their prices to what they said were viable levels.

The problem is not limited to Harare alone but has spread to other cities and towns around the country.

The unemployment strain has been taken up by the so-called informal economy which is dominated by street vendors.

Typically, they pay no tax and do not come under regulation, but they do add to the country’s wealth.

Vendors have said they were doing what they were doing out of necessity.