By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Harare, February 05, 2016 – Dozens of placard waving street vendors Thursday staged a demonstration at Town House to protest what they said was continued harassment and extortion by municipal police.
The protestors, donning yellow bibs inscribed “Vending is my life”, successfully handed a petition to Harare acting mayor, Councillor Wilton Njanji within the MDC-T run council.
The vendors said they were increasingly worried by continued assaults and raids by municipal police within the CBD as they tried to eke out an honest living in a harsh economy.
“…We demand that council takes necessary measures to ensure that harassment and extortion of struggling vendors be stopped forthwith,” read the petition in part.
The vendors, who urged government to observe constitutional rights such as freedom from degrading treatment, also made sensational claims of corruption in Council.
They went on to demand that Council investigates authorities at Town House allegedly working in cahoots with corrupt municipal cops to extort money and confiscate goods from some of them within the CBD.
“Raids on vendors have actually turned out to be a cash cow for rogue municipal cops and their superiors,” vendors said.
Speaking on the event, ZimRights national chairperson Passmore Nyakureba urged authorities to urgently address vendors’ grievances and also be guided by the national constitution which guarantees basic humanity.
“If the authorities take into consideration the state of the economy with very few opportunities for decent work at the moment, they would consider finding accommodation in their own plans for the plight of the vendors who, not out of disrespect and notoriety, but genuine necessity, also take the streets as their workplaces,” he said.
The currents troubles on vendors began last year when thousands of them were violently driven off city pavements by municipal authorities at the behest of the local government ministry.
City authorities also argued they were decongesting the teeming city centre which had seen most parts of it paved with a miscellany of perishables, clothing and electronics among others.
The Harare city went to establish some markets from which vendors they were to trade but some were quick to abandon the stalls claiming low business and lack of ablution facilities in the designated zones.
Many also failed to be accommodated in the rented places.
Some claimed their second hand clothes confiscated during the raids were later parcelled out at rallies addressed by the First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
The move even sparked a demonstration and a petition to Parliament by the national Vendors Union of Zimbabwe which demanded having vendors’ wishes also incorporated in the city’s planning processes.
During last year’s skirmishes, municipal police resorted to violence and destruction of the informal traders’ goods with one incident where bales of clothing were set ablaze at the Julius Nyerere foot bridge.