Harare, June 3, 2015 – The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on Wednesday went into panic mood and deployed dozens of police officers to keep an eye on scores of vendors who gathered for a rally in central Harare.
Hundreds of vendors attended a rally organised by the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NVUZ) at the Anglican Cathedral Church in central Harare, where the union leaders vowed not to move out of their vending sites as tension gripped the southern African country five days before the expiry of an ultimatum for them to move out of their trading stalls.
At the rally, NVUZ leaders and vendors registered their displeasure against the government planned blitz on vendors which entails deploying soldiers to drive them out and agreed to resist eviction from their operating spaces.
But in a show of force designed to intimidate the vendors, the ZRP deployed more than 50 anti-riot police officers who monitored proceedings during the vendors’ rally from close range outside the Anglican Cathedral Church while other police officers were stationed at Africa Unity Square and at Parliament Building.
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 defended the planned deployment of soldiers to remove the vendors as vital to restore the beauty of Zimbabwe’s cities and towns.
The government said the seven-day ultimatum issued Monday for vendors to move to designated vending sites would run until Monday and failure to move out would attract the wrath of soldiers, who in recent years have been are notorious for committing human rights violations
Local human rights groups among them the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Committee for the People’s Charter have condemned the planned blitz as insensitive and a violation of human rights.
“Such intervention by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in civilian affairs directly violates the Constitution of Zimbabwe. ZLHR is concerned that the government (at central and local levels), is using the threat of military intervention to circumvent the administrative justice and constitutional rights of the vendors involved and, more disturbingly, to instill fear in both the vendor community and the wider populace. Such an intervention is both unreasonable and disproportionate under the circumstances, when more democratically accountable, lawful and peaceful options remain open to the State,” reads part of the ZLHR statement.
Already, human rights lawyers have written to Chombo warning him to reverse the ultimatum issued to the vendors or risk legal action.
Observers say the increase in the number of Zimbabweans resorting to vending mirrors the collapse of the southern African country’s once vibrant economy. Former Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party supporters have on several occasions staged protests against the ZANU PF government’s failure to create two million jobs it promised to generate during the run up to the 2013 sham general elections which Mugabe’s party won amid several irregularities.