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Politics and Control of Local Markets Mix in Latest Wave of Zimbabwe Violence

  • Gibbs Dube
  • Jonga Kandemiiri
  • Tatenda Gumbo

Sources said ZANU-PF youth militants backed by the party apparatus and passive police on Monday targeted local and foreign vendors under the guise of pushing indigenization while aiming at supporters of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Chang

Zimbabwean informal traders, residents of Harare and others say the wave of violence in the capital in recent days has little or nothing to do with the indigenization process or empowerment of indigenous blacks. Instead, they charge, it was driven by ZANU-PF militants fighting for control of lucrative markets in produce and general goods.

Sources said ZANU-PF youth militants backed by the party apparatus and passive police on Monday targeted local and foreign vendors under the guise of pushing indigenization while aiming at supporters of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Officials, activists and observers on Tuesday were still trying to piece together events as thousands of alleged ZANU-PF youths descended on the Gulf shopping center and flea market, trashing and looting stands and beating merchants and consumers.

Some witnesses said they targeted Nigerians, Chinese and other foreign vendors in the name of empowerment, but many Zimbabweans merchants were also hit.

Harare Residents Trust Coordinator Precious Shumba told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that ZANU-PF militants who lost control of Harare informal markets when the ruling party was ousted by the Movement for Democratic Change from control of the capital in the 2008 elections have been seeking to reclaim control of lucrative trade.

Social worker Thabitha Ncube said the violence is loosely linked to poverty levels. "Many people are very poor in Zimbabwe and some parties are trying to take advantage of that by engaging youth in these violent activities in an attempt to draw them to their ranks in case of national polls this year,” Ncube said.

Economist Eric Bloch said the continuing rise of violence in the streets of the capital is discouraging foreign investors. “There is no way that Zimbabwe can have meaningful foreign direct investment when we have such violent activities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihure failed to show up Monday for a meeting called by the two co-ministers of Home Affairs, nominally his bosses, to discuss the surge in violence, according to Home Affairs Co-Minister Theresa Makone of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Makone said Chihuri was notified of the meeting but did not appear. She and ZANU-PF Home Affairs Co-Minister Kembo Mohadi went ahead with the meeting but failed to agree on who was responsible for the disturbances. The Tsvangirai MDC and ZANU-PF have been trading recriminations on the origins of the violence, the MDC accusing ZANU-PF of stepping up political violence in anticipation of elections, ZANU-PF accusing Tsvangirai of attempting to trigger an Egyptian-style popular revolt.

Makone, who met last week with President Robert Mugabe on the same issue, told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that she is waiting to see what comes out of a meeting on Friday of the National Security Council, which reports to the Cabinet.

The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, established to track compliance with the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing, said it will set up a national toll free hotline to report violence In a bid to speed up the official response. The 24-hour hotline will take reports on beatings, threats and arbitrary arrests.

JOMIC representative Tabitha Khumalo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the panel will work with the police. She told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that all calls will be investigated and verified with the assistance of law enforcement.

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