By Tendayi Madhomu
Opposition parties have slammed government for deploying disproportionate force to drive out vendors from the streets of Harare.
In the wake of the declaration of a state of emergency after a cholera outbreak in the capital that has so far killed over 30 people, government invoked the Public Health Act, banning all public gatherings and vending activities.
Opposition parties and civil society groups told the Daily News that government was blind to the plight of vendors in a context of high unemployment adding there was a risk of civil unrest from the police high-handedness.
Pressure group Tajamuka/Sesijikile and Organising for Zimbabwe issued statements to the press yesterday afternoon, castigating government for engaging armed forces in clamping down vending activities in the city.
“Violence is caused by the police, government is responsible for violence. Government should not expect the people not to react when they use force. They need to bring down the tools of force and come to the negotiating table.
“They have to come up with a reasonable and compromising solution,” said Promise Mkhwananzi, leader of Tajamuka/Sesijikile.
Organising for Zimbabwe’s Munjodzi Matandiri said government is not cognisant of the vending population’s livelihood.
“The informal sector in this country has become a mainstay of many households.
“Disrupting vendors in towns is not just an issue of the vendors themselves, its impact is far-reaching, disrupting livelihoods,” he said.
“Parents in many schools this term have failed to pay school fees; the number of children dropping out of school is getting very high every day. These are the issues that force citizens from all walks of life to be on the streets to try and earn a living”
MDC presidential spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda yesterday claimed Harare’s urban community was being punished for not voting for Zanu PF in the past July elections.
“The cholera outbreak has nothing to do with people in the CBDs of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru or Mutare. (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa is being vindictive because people did not vote for him.
“People should understand that they are dealing with an unconscious government. There is no way the government is going to win this war against vendors and (Nelson) Chamisa is very strong on that,” said Sibanda.
“Government must solve the issue of cholera and sewage without roping in the people of Zimbabwe who are going about their usual business, trying to earn a living.
“They (Zanu PF) will continue to be rejected.”
On his twitter account, MDC’s Tendai Biti said the actions of the security forces are barbaric.
“The brutality and heavy-handedness with which the police and junta are currently meting out on vendors in Harare CBD is completely unlawful and unacceptable.
“This country has quickly descended into a fascist banana republic run on fear and coercion. We reject barbarism,” he wrote.
Harry Peters, leader of the Democratic Opposition Party (DOP), also condemned government’s move and said Zanu PF is losing to the opposition through such actions.
“Who is going to pay their (vendors) children’s school fees, who is going to buy food for their families? We have a complicated situation here and government should create employment first before pushing these people out of the streets,” he said.
“This is a time bomb that is likely to cause riots. The MDC is on standby; Zanu PF is pushing itself into the MDC glove.
“With prices going up every day, even bread; if you take away that dollar that they are making everyday, what do you think is going to happen?
“This is similar to what happened on August 1. Zimbabweans are hungry, we are starving, and they (government) must create employment first.”
Violence broke out this week as police and vendors fought running battles with the informal traders resisting government and council’s directive to vacate the streets.
Authorities fear unregulated vending activities will worsen the spread of cholera, which erupted a fortnight ago and has killed 32 people so far.
Yesterday, riot police were seen driving around their trucks with tear gas canisters, maintaining order in Harare’s CBD. Daily News