By Professor Matodzi
Harare, June 23, 2015 – Zimbabwe’s tormented vendors have hauled the country’s Home Affairs Minister and his subordinates to court after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) vetoed a planned protest over the eviction of the informal traders.
The ZRP had early last week granted permission to the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) to stage a demonstration on Wednesday to petition legislators in their bid to compel the government to shelve its impending removal of informal traders from trading on the streets of the country’s main towns and cities. The approval of the NAVUZ organised protest came after the militant vendors’ union had notified the ZRP of its intention to hold a demonstration against the impending eviction of informal traders from operating what the government labelled undesignated market stalls.
In their petition, a copy of which was seen by Radio VOP, NAVUZ sought the legislators’ support in their lobby for the suspension of the impending eviction of informal traders for some time to enable some measures to be put in place before their ejection.
But Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, the Officer Commanding Harare Central District on Monday made a volte face and banned the vendors’ protest march without disclosing the reasons for taking such drastic action and warned NAVUZ that police officers would interfere and stop the protesters from petitioning Parliament.
This prompted NAVUZ to file an urgent chamber application in the High Court seeking to declare the ZRP’s actions illegal and unconstitutional. Saunyama, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri are cited as respondents in the application which is set to be heard Wednesday morning by Judge President Justice George Chiweshe.
In an application filed on Tuesday by the vendors’ union’s lawyer, Trust Maanda of Maunga Maanda and Associates Legal Practitioners, NAVUZ argued that the ZRP’s conduct in seeking to reverse its approval of the informal traders’ protest is a violation of its members’ rights to assembly, associate, demonstrate and petition and freedom of expression as enshrined in Section 58, 59 and 61 of the Constitution.
Maanda, a member of the country’s leading legal defence group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, argued that the conduct of the ZRP is not a just or reasonable and prompt administrative decision and violates the right to just administrative conduct in terms of Section 68 of the Constitution.
“In terms of the Constitution the state has a duty to respect, protect, fulfill and promote human rights. In this instance the respondents seem to seek to do the opposite. The conduct of the respondents is unconstitutional in so far as it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. It is contrary to the objectives and the founding principles on which our country is based in terms of the values and principles set out in the Constitution,” reads part of the urgent chamber application.
The human rights lawyer said it would be difficult for NAVUZ to stop its members from turning up for the protest march as the informal traders’ union had already mobilised its members to show up for the demonstration.
“The march is due for Wednesday this week. We have already mobilised our membership. Placards and other related material have been sourced at a great expense to the members of the applicant (NAVUZ). If the march is stopped or disrupted the members of the applicant will suffer irreparable harm,” Maanda said.
NAVUZ members have vowed not to move out of their vending sites as tension grips the troubled southern African country, three days before the expiry of an ultimatum for them to move out of their trading stalls.
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 recently announced a plan to deploy soldiers to remove vendors from cities and towns in a move which they defended as vital to restore the country’s beauty.
Human rights groups have condemned the planned blitz on vendors as insensitive and a violation of human rights