Bulawayo market traders forced to attend ZANU PF meeting

Scores of vegetable sellers were over the weekend forced to attend a ZANU PF meeting in Bulawayo, after being rounded up and threatened by a group of party youths.

A vegetable market on 5th Avenue was closed on Saturday after the ZANU PF youths forced the vendors to attend a party meeting at the Royal Hotel. SW Radio Africa’s correspondent Lionel Saungweme said the youths were led by a known ZANU PF activist called Shepherd Gomera, who ordered the vendors to close up shop.

“The youths went around disturbing the vendors and forcing them to stop selling. Gomera then came around on top of a truck ordering people to leave and threatening them, telling them they will face some kind of punishment if they don’t,” Saungweme said.

Saungweme returned to the market on Monday and found that business had returned to normal. But he said the vendors and many shoppers were reluctant to talk to the media, in case they are targeted by ZANU PF.

“People are very timid. One vendor said to me that they don’t even have political links, and that they are neither MDC or ZANU PF. All they want to do is feed their families. It is their top-most goal,” Saungweme said.

The vendors pay up to US$14 a day to the Bulawayo City Council to use their individual vending bays, and Saungweme explained that even on a normal day the vendors “really struggle to break even.”

“There are many vendors and it is very difficult to make money. So every minute when they cannot sell their goods means they are losing money, and it means they can’t look after their families,” Saungweme said.

He added that there are fears this is a warning of more intimidation to come, with Bulawayo gearing up to host the upcoming ZANU PF conference. An estimated 6,000 ZANU PF members, including Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, are set to descend on the city next month for the four day conference. Saungweme said that the weekend intimidation of the market vendors could be a sign of the strict clampdown many expect will come when the conference gets underway. – SW Radio Africa News

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