By Professor Matodzi
Harare, June 24, 2015 – A sea of informal traders on Wednesday brought business to a standstill in central Harare after they defied the deployment of heavily armed police officers to deliver a petition to legislators over their impending eviction from trading in the streets.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on Wednesday deployed close to 100 police officers armed with teargas guns and truncheons, who attempted to block the vendors from reaching Parliament building to present their petition.
The police officers formed a human wall at the intersection of Nelson Mandela Avenue and Second Street ostensibly to hinder the protesting vendors from picketing outside Parliament building.
But so porous was the police human wall that some representatives of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) who organised the protest managed to reach to Parliament building and served their petition to the Deputy Clerk of Parliament.
The vendors took to the streets after their lawyers Trust Maanda and Manatsa Makore of Maunga Maanda and Partners Legal Practitioners, who are members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, obtained an order on Wednesday interdicting the ZRP from interfering with their demonstration. High Court Judge Justice Happias Zhou granted the order after the lawyers petitioned the High Court to overturn the police ban of the demonstration. The police which had previously sanctioned the demonstration made a volte face on Monday and banned the vendors’ protest march without disclosing the reasons for taking such drastic action.
In their petition, the vendors implored legislators to take swift action to stop the impending eviction planned by the government until all vendors have been allocated alternative trading spaces so that their ejection would not lead to the unnecessary loss of income.
The vendors demanded that the government must display the same sense of urgency in creating new jobs and protecting incomes and livelihoods in the same manner in which they are seeking to evict them from their vending sites.
“These designated vending sites must charge affordable rates to all vendors and they must have all the necessary infrastructure such as sanitation facilities,” reads part of the NAVUZ petition seen by Radio VOP.
The ZRP has in recent months been increasingly resorting to scare tactics by deploying heavily armed police officers to break up anti-government protests as tension grips the troubled southern African country.
Human rights groups have condemned the planned blitz on vendors as insensitive and a violation of human rights while Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo, Minister of State for Harare Province Miriam Chikukwa and Harare Provincial Joint Operations Command (JOC) member Brigadier General Sanyatwe have justified it as vital to restore the “beauty” of cities and towns