Hundreds of street vendors marched in Harare today despite police attempts to block them and petitioned parliament over the government’s plan to relocate them to designated vending sites.
More than 300-placard carrying street vendors gathered along Rezende Street near Town House demanding that the government should extend its June 26 deadline to relocate them to designated vending sites arguing that the government’s plan is not feasible.
As the protestors reached the corner of Julius Nyerere Way and Nelson Mandela Avenue, heavily armed police details formed a human shield blocking the protestors from proceeding to parliament where they intended to hand over their petition.
After more than an hour of negotiations, police and the leaders of the protest, the two groups agreed to allow only four vendors to proceed to the august house to submit their petition that was later handed to acting Clerk of Parliament, Nomasontho Sunga.
One of the leaders of the demonstrators, Justice Munayi, board secretary of the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe or Navuzi, told the demonstrators that vending was the only source of their livelihood and vowed not to relocate to any other sites that are being proposed by government saying they were not enough to accommodate all the vendors.
Munayi added that the vending sites that have been designated by government were being run by what he called “space barons” that he claims are politically connected.
The Navuzi leader said authorities should address the economic challenges facing the country that are forcing many people to turn to informal trading.
Movement for Democratic Change Member of Parliament for Bulawayo East, Thabitha Khumalo, who joined the demonstrators, said the Zanu PF government should deliver on its election promises if it were to address the unemployment crisis that is resulting in many Zimbabweans turning into vending in order to eke out a living.
When the four vendors that included Munayi returned from parliament where they submitted their petition, the rest of their colleagues had forced their way past the police barricade and were following Munayi and others to the august house only to be stopped by the law enforcement agents at the intersection of Nelson Mandela and Sam Nujoma Street.
The protesters then agreed to disperse after learning that their petition had been delivered at parliament.
Today’s demonstrations were given a go ahead yesterday by the High Court after police back-tracked on their earlier promise to monitor the protestors.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organization also petitioned Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo calling on government to abandon its planned evictions of the street vendors and engage all stakeholders in order to find common ground.