Mugabe orders Harare clean-up

Harare - President Robert Mugabe's government has threatened a blitz on Harare’s street vendors, similar to one that left hundreds of thousands of people without homes or jobs 12 years ago.

Zimbabwe anti-riot police patrol in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana, AFP)

On Saturday, Mugabe said that even the city centre’s roads named after him and Tanzanian liberation icon Julius Nyerere were “covered with dirt” and that vendors were selling goods “everywhere”.

The smartest city

“Down with that indiscipline, they must go to their designated areas” he said, in quotes translated from Shona by the private Daily News.

“We don’t want the Nigerian style. Harare must be the smartest city because it is our capital city,” he said.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Harare Town Clerk Josephine Ncube said the city council, backed by the police would embark on “Operation Restore Order – an operation to decongest the city”.

She said the exercise would “bring order and sanity in the Central Business District and other affected areas in light of the unprecedented levels of chaos prevailing in the City”.

‘Clear Out the Trash’

She said a new registration programme would be launched on Tuesday, and vendors would have to operate from designated sites.

Twelve years ago the authorities launched the first Operation Restore Order, or Murambatsvina (Clear out the Trash) that started in Harare and moved countrywide.

It stripped around 700 000 people of their homes or livelihoods, according to the UN.

A local lobby group condemned the latest proposed action in Harare, and said vendors were Mugabe’s own creation.

‘Take a chill pill, Mr President’

“We urge the current president to take a chill pill, relax and allow us to work without disturbances,” said the group, the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation.

“As a reminder to the current president, we are in the streets not because we want but your administration’s Machiavellian macroeconomic policies have brought us to this stage,” it added.

The group said around 100 000 people and their families would be affected by the evictions.

With formal unemployment estimated at over 80%, most Zimbabweans earn a living from the informal sector.

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