Scores of people were arrested in Harare on Thursday as street vendors resisted eviction from illegal trading sites in a crackdown being spearheaded by the Harare Municipality.
Municipal police destroyed market stalls early this morning and allegedly looted some vendors’ wares as the local authority’s eviction of illegal street traders entered its second day.
One of the streets vendors, Peter Jack, who is also the chairperson of the Mobile Youth Foundation, told Studio 7 that most of the traders only arrived at their respective vending points only to find their tents and stalls destroyed, leaving them without any means of making money.
Jack said indications are that more than 70 vendors were arrested in the crackdown and are being detained at Harare Central Police station as they resisted the evictions. Police were could not immediately respond to inquiries on these arrests.
Jack vowed that vendors would return to street pavements Friday to sell their wares, saying vending was their only source of livelihood.
Another vendor, Lucy Makunde, who doubles as the administrator of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, said today’s alleged attacks on vendors by municipal police warranted some court action.
Promise Mkhwananzi, programs coordinator of the Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organization, condemned the heavy-handedness of the municipal saying their actions violated the rights of the street traders.
However, council spokesperson Michael Chideme refuted allegations leveled against municipal police, adding that his officers acted professionally.
He said council was determined to ensure that there was order in the city and will not stop relocating the traders to designated vending sites although the vendors allege that the new vending points are dusty and not enough to cater for all illegal informal traders in Harare’s central business district.
Studio 7 failed to get a comment from Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who repeatedly claimed that he was in meetings.
The government says the relocation of vendors to new sites is designed to clean up the city, which has over the years been invaded by people selling various goods.