BY VANESSA GUZHA/TAFADZWA KACHIKO
THE on-going demolition of informal traders’ structures at Harare’s Mbudzi traffic circle and different parts of Chitungwiza has left hundreds of informal traders shocked.
The joint operation by Harare City Council, Chitungwiza Municipality and the Zimbabwe Republic Police began on Monday.
When NewsDay visited Mbudzi traffic circle, the vendors said the operation took them by surprise.
“They just arrested everyone, including bus operators they came across. They were ordered to remove their buses and park them at Southlea Park Police Station, and all the roads were cleared,” he said.
“We thought that they only wanted to clear the road of the buses which usually cause traffic congestion, but we were shocked when police resurfaced in the afternoon at around 2pm and confiscated furniture from vendors before demolishing illegal structures.”
The vendor claimed that the place where they had erected their structures, which is known as Irvines, is owned by a person living with a disability (PWD) named Abraham Markle, who had a brush with council police in 2009 when he organised a group of PWDs to march to Town House in protest after they were removed from their selling points.
“They don’t want PWDs in the central business district.”
He alleged that after a meeting with Harare City Council (HCC) officials in 2009, vendors were then allocated the space at Mbudzi.
“Markle’s containers were approved by the police and he was even given permission to use the ground as he so desired. I am one person living with disability trying to earn a living,” he said.
Markle told NewsDay that the demolitions were deliberate as council’s objectives were to humiliate him for the 2009 incident.
“They want to treat PWDs like animals, instead of protecting us, they want to kill us,” he said.
During the demolitions, water pipes were destroyed, resulting in treated water flowing everywhere.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the operation, but said the police were only there to maintain peace and order.
“It is an operation by HCC and Chitungwiza Municipality. Police are only there to maintain order,” he said.
HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme said there was a resolution to remove all illegal structures.
Chitungwiza mayor Lovemore Maiko said they were working towards constructing and refurbishing 26 sites to accommodate 7 919 informal traders.
Maiko blamed procrastination by council management and lack of resources for the delay in implementing the project.
“Early in 2019, a resolution to construct decent trading sites was made and we then asked council officials to identify these spaces to accommodate those who sell vegetables, furniture, open hardware and many other businesses, and 26 sites were identified,” he said.
Maiko said if the same energy put towards demolishing structures had been applied in implementing the project, destruction of vendor stalls would have been avoided.
Of the 26 trading sites, four will be at Chikwanha People’s Market which is set to accommodate 1 832, Chigovanyika Green Market (56), Huruyadzo Market (296), and Jambanja (1 396). They found companies interested to embark on construction.
He said after competitive bidding, Cernic Investments and Tamira Investments won the tender to construct the markets at Chikwanha, Jambanja, Chigovanyika and Huruyadzo shopping centres.