By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, September 27, 2016 – FIERCE rioting erupted in Harare’s CBD on Tuesday morning when dozens of alleged vendors took matters into their hands, stoning shops in apparent disgruntlement against the government.
However, local vendors’ groups were quick to distance themselves from the riots with Stern Zvorwadza’s National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) saying these were barbaric acts by Zanu PF supporters.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC) also claimed the demonstrators were suspected Zanu PF youths who were being used by senior politicians to cause a reign of terror and soil the image of legitimate vendors groups.
“Zanu PF youths have invaded Harare ‘s Central Business District destroying property and looting from shops,” said the group.
“This is part of a ploy by the ruling party to use their youths to cause violence after which they will institute a series of arrests of civic society and opposition activists.
“The rogue youths went on to stone the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe offices located at the corner of Leopold Takawira Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue.”
The demonstrators stoned Choppies supermarket owned by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Police, who often patrol the CBD with truckloads of anti-riot police, were not as swift during the Tuesday riots.
“…The most surprising thing is that the riot police, which had become notorious for using force against protestors, took almost an hour to respond,” said CIZC.
“CIZC views today’s incident as a ploy by Zanu PF to clamp down on civic society and opposition activists in light of the pressure that is mounting on the failed government to deliver.
“We fear that such desperate acts by the regime could highlight the beginning of clampdowns on civic society and opposition activists.
“It is shameful that the regime has resorted to the use of force against impoverished citizens calling on the government to improve their livelihoods.”
NAVUZ also said this was a Zanu PF act.
“As NAVUZ, we view this as one of the ploys by Zanu (PF) to use their rogue youths to cause violence after which they will abuse their stranglehold on the police and judiciary to institute a series of arbitrary arrests of opposition and civic society activists,” said the group in a statement.
“We would like to reiterate that NAVUZ is a peaceful organisation and violence has never been our way of resolving issues.
“Rather, our members have been victims of police brutality while protesting peacefully and today’s violent scenes in the capital is one of the many ways through which the regime is seeking to punish our members as well as opposition activists.”
The vendors group also said its CBD offices were ironically also stoned by the said vendors with staff trapped in their offices fearing for their lives.
“NAVUZ would like to distance itself from such rogue behaviour. We implore the ruling party to listen to our concerns rather than try to use dirty tactics to silence genuine grievances,” said the group.