Armed Zimbabwean police have arrested several vendors resisting moves by the government to remove them from the streets following an order by President Robert Mugabe to get rid of people selling various wares in public.
One of the arrested vendors’ leaders, Stanley Zvorwadza, was set free after he was among the first people picked up in an early police raid.
According to press reports, police and municipal security guards raided various areas in the Harare central business district where they destroyed stalls belonging to struggling vendors.
Some of the vendors temporarily fought back but were overpowered by the police, who are implementing a presidential order to get rid of people littering the streets.
Mugabe made the order when he addressed members of the ruling party’s Youth League a few days ago.
ZimRights has condemned the move, saying it will destroy the livelihoods of millions of Zimbabweans, who are resorting to vendors due to lack of jobs as a result of the devastated economy.
In a statement, ZimRights said, “… The Harare city is typically calling the clean-up Operation Restore Order. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) condemns the eviction of vendors from the streets where they are trying to earn an honest livelihood in a difficult economic environment.
“ZimRights is of the view that the current high numbers of vendors is directly related to the high levels of unemployment, which some economists have put at over 80%. The attempted eviction of vendors is therefore tantamount to addressing the symptoms of the problem. The solution lies in the Zimbabwean government creating opportunities in the main stream economy.”
The organization further urged Mr. Mugabe, who issued the eviction order, “to stop the unwarranted human rights violations and uphold the Constitution.”
ZimRights also said the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission should intervene and advice the government to stop the removals.
“ZimRights sees no difference between Operation Restore Order, and Operation Murambatsvina, which failed to decongest the city, but had led to gross human rights violations of mammoth proportions.”
Under this operation, on May 19, 2005, police burnt, bulldozed and destroyed tens of thousands of properties around Zimbabwe. The destructions resulted in the mass evictions of urban dwellers from housing structures and the closure of various informal sector businesses. According to the United Nations, 700,000 people - nearly 6 percent of the total population - were forcibly evicted from their homes, made homeless or lost their source of livelihood.