By Farayi Machamire
Crafty Zanu PF politicians are making a killing by allocating space at sites designated by the Harare City Council (HCC) for vendors who are being moved from the central business district (CBD) following the outbreak of cholera early this month.
In the wake of the cholera outbreak which has killed nearly 50 people, government has prohibited vending in central Harare, as well as public gatherings.
There have been sporadic running battles in central Harare between the vendors and police, enlisted by council to effect the ban, as city fathers attempt to mobilise the informal traders into designated vending sites.
Zanu PF hawks are now taking advantage of confusion by milking the desperate vendors, whom they are charging as much as $10 per vending space, from the $1, 25 charged by the city fathers.
Harare mayor Herbert Gomba confirmed the development, saying his office had become inundated with complaints of politicians taking advantage of the embattled vendors to line their pockets.
He said the politicians, who are now being referred to as “space barons”, were depriving council of revenue that could have been raised from vendors’ fees, making it difficult for council to maintain the infrastructure being utilised by the vendor.
“We are aware that politicians have started grabbing vending stalls at our Coca-Cola vending market. Be assured this council will deal with that and resume control.
This person will make sure it’s done,” Gomba said on his twitter account.
During a media brief on Friday, Gomba said while council was asking vendors to pay $1, 25 for space they have seen circumstances where certain people have been asking them to pay $10.
He called on the media to help council raise awareness among vendors so that they are not taken advantage of.
“So much is being asked from them yet we are creating a market for them, a facility for them yet people are coming over to request substantial amounts from them and that is working against our engagement process,” he said.
While Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo said he was hearing the allegations for the first time, he maintained that the ruling party abides by the rule of law.
“I have not heard anything of that nature,” he said.
Heavily intimidated vendors say they have been complying with the “space barons” in a bid to set up their stalls and continue to eke out a living, away from the cat and mouse battles engulfing Zimbabwe’s capital.
“The registration of vendors and daily payments have for a long time been hijacked by Zanu political activists hiding behind the name of Zanu PF. Sadly, this self-enrichment exercise has continued in the so called new-dispensation,” Harare vendor Enock Muripo told the Daily News on Sunday.
The ongoing cat and mouse relationship between vendors and law enforcement agents, including the confiscation of their wares, has pushed many informal traders into destitution.
Inadvertently, it has created social movements who are themselves racking in thousands of dollars from the heavily intimidated vendors.
HCC’sinformal sector committee chairperson Antony Shingadeya called for a peaceful and non-confrontational movement of vendors to designated sites as the city fathers move to restore Harare’s Sunshine glory.
He said the registration for space has already begun with over 5000 people having registered so far.
“Only council officials are mandated to allocate vending spaces. Middlemen popularly referred to as space barons have no place in this fray and age,” he said.
“There is absolutely no need to vandalize public and private property during the relocation exercise. Names and images of people vandalising property in the CBD have been captured and registered with law enforcement agents. Depending on demand, more spaces would be availed,” he added. Daily News.