Harare, June 2, 2015 – Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo has incensed human rights lawyers who on Tuesday issued an ultimatum for him to rescind the government’s decision to deploy soldiers to drive out informal traders from their market stalls.
Chombo on Monday ordered informal traders to vacate the streets of Zimbabwe’s cities and towns and gave the vendors a period of six days to leave their work stations failure of which the government would enlist the services of soldiers and the police to evict them.
The government’s threat was also reinforced by Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, who is a provincial member of the dreaded Joint Operations Command, who indicated that the unit will “deal” with the vendors.
But in a letter delivered to Chombo’s offices late Tuesday, Chris Mhike, a legal practitioner with Atherstone and Cook Legal Practitioners and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, protested against the government’s decision and indicated that the planned deployment of soldiers was a violation of constitutional provisions relating to security services and the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe.
Mhike charged that in mooting the plan to chase away vendors from their trading stalls, the government had paid disregard to the economic realities of Zimbabwe and the economic catastrophic effects of the planned move on the socio-economic rights of the traders.
“The planned exercise is inimical to the welfare and current needs of thousands of Zimbabwean lives that depend on vending,” reads part of Mhike’s letter.
The human rights lawyer urged the government to desist from carrying out the proposed plan of chasing away vendors and asked Chombo to make a firm and formal undertaking to do so by Thursday failure of which he will resort to taking legal measures to protect the vendors’ constitutional rights.
Most Zimbabweans have turned to informal trading after several years of an economic catastrophe blamed on President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF government. Most of Zimbabwe’s once flourishing industries have collapsed rendering thousands of Zimbabwean jobless and leaving them with no choice but to rely on informal trading to sustain lives and families.