WASHINGTON DC —
Harare municipal officers allegedly set on fire some goods today owned by street traders as the local authority intensified its crackdown on illegal vendors.
Some Harare street traders woke up this morning to find their bales of clothes stored at a footbridge near the council headquarters set on fire and were quick to accuse municipal police of torching their wares.
One of the affected vendors, Gibson Gandawa, told Studio 7 that all the clothes he had ordered for resale were destroyed.
Another affected street vendor, Godknows Mataruse, said it would be difficult for him and others to repay the money that they borrowed in order to start their vending businesses.
Acting Harare Town Clerk, Josephine Ncube, denied that municipal police were responsible for setting the goods on fire.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed receiving a report on the incident, adding that police are carrying out their investigations.
At the same time, Charamba said most of the vendors who were arrested yesterday were fined for allegedly conducting themselves in a manner that was likely to breach peace while only three of them remained behind bars after they were charged with assault.
She said they allegedly attacked municipal police who were evicting them from illegal vending sites along Speke Avenue.
As council intensifies its crackdown on street traders, the MDC led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is urging the vendors to stay put arguing that the government must put the economy back on the rails first before evicting them.
Movement for Democratic Change councilors once attempted to remove the vendors from the streets but the move was blocked by First Lady Grace Mugabe who urged the street traders to occupy the streets.
Local Government Minister Savior Kasukuwere has told Harare City Council officials to ensure that street traders are relocated to designated vending points or risk losing their jobs.
Some of the illegal vendors, whose market stalls were destroyed by municipal police over the last three days, are returning to their previous vending points to sell their wares while the council insists that they all have to leave.