Blessings Mashaya 1 November 2017
HARARE – Disgruntled vendors, touts and foreign currency dealers in Harare
yesterday gave President Robert Mugabe a two-week ultimatum to stop the
police from harassing and confiscating their wares.
About a fortnight ago, Mugabe ordered authorities to flush out vendors and
other informal traders that have stormed the Harare CBD, arguing the
capital had become filthy and chaotic.
“When I arrived from South Africa, I heard that Harare is now dirty with
vendors now everywhere, even streets which were given names such as
(Julius) Nyerere and Robert Mugabe are now covered with dirt. Some vendors
are selling their wares during the night so that they cannot be arrested,”
the 93-year-old leader said.
However, the defiant informal traders – who have been in running battles
with police since Mugabe’s decree – held a meeting yesterday, which riot
police failed to block, with the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe leader
Sten Zvorwadza saying they resolved to demand clarification from Mugabe on
who is sending the police to harass them and confiscate their wares.
“We want to give Mugabe only two weeks to clarify whether he gave the
police directive to harass and confiscate our goods illegally.
We heard him saying vendors must be moved out of the town and our question
is, did he also give directive to the police to beat us. If he fails to do
so in two weeks we will rate him accordingly and we will also know that we
are being led by an evil government.
“To the police we are saying `starting from today if they use batons to
beat us we are going to take those batons and hand them over to (police
Commissioner-General Augustine) Chihuri.
“Mugabe doesn’t have the capacity to remove vendors, we know that he has
the capacity to beat and kill us but he can’t chase us from the streets –
it’s a matter of our survival. Even if they come with bombs and guns they
will not remove us from the streets,” he said.
Despite the heavy police presence at the Africa Unity Square venue, the
vendors, forex dealers and touts were not deterred, as they came in
numbers to attend the meeting.
“We are not a security threat. They tried to block us from holding this
meeting but people showed that they are not scared of them. We invited the
two vice presidents (Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko) but they
didn’t come and that shows our leaders don’t care about our plight,”
“We want to be united as the informal sector. Mugabe’s powers came from
the people and if we unite he will listen to us.”
“The arrest of forex dealers is illegal and for touts they are expected to
pay a little fine after their arrest and not to be brutalised like
“The government is not serious about protecting the informal sector. They
fail to understand that we are the most important sector in this economy.”
Meanwhile, the vendors and money changers have since started trickling
back into the city centre, despite being declared persona non grata.