By Farai Dauramanzi
Vendors in Harare’s CBD have revealed that they are being affected by law enforcement authorities’ corrupt tendencies.
This came out of a vendors’ meeting that was held in the capital on Thursday 6 November 2014 to discuss issues affecting vendors. The meeting that was organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) identified corruption as a major hindrance for vendors in the City.
One of the speakers at the meeting Sten Zvorwadza the chairperson of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) said that law enforcement agencies were in the practice of extorting money from vendors they catch selling at undesignated points.
“When we talk about vending we are talking about issues of livelihood and we cannot run-away from certain issues such as corruption. Vendors are losing their money through corruption and extortion and this corruption is taking place even in council’s top offices and we are saying it should stop,” expounded Zvorwadza.
The NAVUZ chairperson said that some vendors were being moved from their places to pave way for “land barons” who in turn sublet stalls to vendors for $10 per day instead of the prescribed $1 per day. Zvorwadza suggested that vendors should not be chased away from their vending posts but, be allowed to pay licenses to operate from anywhere they are in town.
“For the past 22 years, vendors have been harassed here in Zimbabwe by municipal police and ZRP. Vendors have been chased left right and centre like rats, by some people who have since been dismissed because of extorting money from vendors,” said Zvorwadza to the jubilation of the multitude of vendors who were present at the meeting.
The country has been experiencing high levels of unemployment that has been pegged at over 90% by some sources due to the economic meltdown and Zvorwadza said that the vending industry was one of the top employers in Zimbabwe providing a source of livelihood for two million people.
Frank Mpahlo of TIZ said that his organisation which offers free legal advice had hosted the meeting after receiving many reports of corruption cases from vendors against law enforcement authorities.
“On my way to see one council official about this meeting, I met this guy who was bleeding and I asked people around why he was being beaten up and they told me that he was caught vending. Is that a reason to beat up a person, so that is why we are here to offer free legal advice,” said Mhlapo.
Mhlapo also said that his organisation was worried by the fact that the distribution of vending sites in Harare was being politicised which was now affecting some vendors as they are not allowed to use the council vending sites.
“In our research we also found out that some vendors are being denied vending space at the council sites on political grounds. That is why some people are managing to acquire many tables for purposes of subletting,” added Mhlapo.
Council officials were synonymous with their absence despite being invited to the meeting in advance. Only Councillor Hammy Madzingira Ward 10 attended the meeting but, his contribution was insignificant as he could not provide binding answers on the vendors’ questions. The vendors said that they wanted answers on their issues from council workers whom they accuse of disturbing their work.
The vendors also said they would resist council’s recently launched operation Bumharutsva which they said was meant to clean up the City of vendors.