By Itai Muzondo
Chaos erupted early on Monday morning at Masvingo’s Chtima market as vendors and stallholders found their business stands locked and manned by council police over the ongoing protest they engaged over the past week by denying to pay revenue towards improved service delivery at the ever growing market.
Vendors angrily unlocked the gates and unarmed the council police who were guarding the closed market.
Riot police came soon and displaced the demonstrating vendors. Police also arrested six members of Masvingo Residents Trust (MRT) Prosper Tiringindi, Godfree Mudhumo, Mativenga Mapfumo, Tarwirei Chisikandireyi, Richard mapeza and Jesina Gwabvira who mobilised the vendors to demonstrate.
Speaking to Radio VOP before his arrest, Masvingo Residents Trust chairperson Prosper Tiringindi said the residents had the right to protest as they have rights to be heard especially towards service delivery issues and reduction of taxes which was the cause of their protest.
“Masvingo Residents Trust is proud to support vendors in this demonstration in which they are demanding to be heard and addressed by the city fathers. Service delivery, especially at Chitima market being the biggest market is important as the vendors had gone for long without either a toilet or proper canteen which is a serious health threat to the general populace,” said Tiringindi.
Tarisai Katini, the Fruit and Vegetable Market chairperson said that vendors were bitter about council continuously taking high revenues from them on a daily basis but doing nothing to combat the looming health hazard at the market.
“$2 is collected from more than a thousand vendors on a daily basis is giving the council a minimum of US$2 000 per day but they still remain mum about our needs. These include toilets which have seen so many people defecating in the open.
The council has also continuously denied reducing the revenue we pay to a reasonable amount per day to suit the services they give us,” said Katini.
A vendor, Pindirai Shenjere expressed his worry saying the money they are made to pay is not justified considering that council is not making improvements.
“We feel robbed because we do not see any development as we expect from the revenue we pay on a daily basis. It is even worrying that now they have closed the market because we demanded to be heard by the responsible authorities. All we want is for council to improve service delivery at our market and also reduce the daily revenue we pay,” said Shenjere.
The Mayor Hubert Fidze however emphasised that there was nothing wrong with council police’s action to close down the market if vendors resisted paying revenue as they had agreed with the market representatives.
“There was actually nothing wrong with council closing gates at the market as the council police were performing their duties. We met recently with the market committees and agreed that they continue paying up the two dollars fee for a month as committees sit and strategies on the one dollar fees per day they had asked for.
“In terms of sanitation, we are working on that and I really want it to be clear that progress is in course to bring development to the market. We also wish to deal with the ever increasing number of vendors mushrooming in town evading paying council revenue as there is enough space for them to operate from,” said Mayor Fidze.
Meanwhile, in a request made by the council’s engineering department, councillors rejected a US$22 000 proposal for the entire toilet project as being too heavy and unjustifiable to the ratepayer.
Fidze however promised that the toilet project will be complete by the end of April this year.