Vendors suffer as cops use Council crackdown to get rich

Vendors in Harare’s main business district have expressed concern over the increase in cases of extortion by municipal police in the wake of a fresh crackdown on vending by the City Council.

Lovemore Chitsa
Lovemore Chitsa

“Operation Street Vending Regedzai” is supposed to flush out all informal traders, but the vendors allege that council police have seized the opportunity to demand bribes from the desperate traders. Many blamed the council for seeking to deprive them of an income, no matter how meagre, at a time when there was a serious shortage of employment.

“On a daily basis, I pay something like $5 to municipal police officers because if you refuse to pay your goods will be confiscated. They come here one after another demanding between $1 and $2,” said Angeline Nyakabawu, who sells home-made sandals and shoes “We have no other option because vending is our source of livelihood and we are forced to do all it takes to be able to trade on the streets.”

The Coalition Against Corruption said any abuse of vendors must be checked. “We are dismayed by the abuse of power by municipal police officers who on a daily basis are robbing the vendors of their hard-earned cash,” said Terry Mutsvanga, the director.

Harare City Council spokesperson, Lesley Gwindi, dismissed the claims and asked why the affected vendors were suffering in silence instead of reporting the cases to Town House. “The victims should come and report to us rather than rushing to the newspapers because that does not solve anything,” he said.

Another vendor, Lovemore Chitsa, said that the clampdown and the resultant corruption amounted to abuse. “Firstly, there is no employment and secondly, the council does not have an alternative before they displace us from the streets. The most painful thing is that the municipal police are not after us to enforce the law but to get money from us.”

Another vendor, Miriam Moyo, said: “If you see us selling in the streets, it does not mean that we are outlaws but actually, it’s a sign of desperation. What comes first, a sunshine status or the people’s welfare? Municipal police officers are heartless.”

Meanwhile, Harare residents have described the recent demolition of tuck-shops as an act of retribution by Zanu (PF) after the party failed to perform well in Harare in the just ended elections.

Government recently ordered the demolishing of tuck-shops in Ruwa and has warned of a clampdown in other areas too. “It’s a punitive act disguised as a clean-up campaign. Some people who built these structures were given assurances by Zanu (PF) officials that their structures would not be destroyed,” said Mabel Murambiwa (28)of Glen View, Harare.

Shamiso Jenda, (48) said government should be sensitive to unemployed people’s plight. “They cannot just move to demolish the structures because in the first place, those structures were built to provide a source of living for unemployed people.”

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