Police have arrested 13 suspects in connection with public violence and destruction of property valued at $76 000 that occurred on Monday in Harare’s central business district after municipal police were attacked for confiscating vendors’ goods.
Four municipal police officers were still in hospital last night after being attacked by suspected MDC-T activists selling their wares in front of Harvest House who reportedly dragged some of the victims into Harvest House, the party’s headquarters.
A group of vendors belonging to the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, led by MDC-T primary election losing candidate for the 2013 harmonised elections in Mbare Mr Stan Zvorwadza, has been resisting relocation to designated vending sites outside the CBD.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the arrests.
“We arrested 13 vendors for public violence in Harare on October 12, 2015. On the said date at around 1200 hours, Harare municipal police raided vendors at Harvest House along Nelson Mandela Avenue, Harare.
“During the course of the raid, the vendors turned violent and started hurling stones at the municipal police, striking surrounding buildings in the process and causing damage whose value is an estimated $76 000,” she said.
She said police would not hesitate to arrest anyone involved in any form of violence.
“All those who were involved in the smashing of windows at banks and offices along Nelson Mandela Avenue will be arrested and charged for public violence and malicious damage to property. These unlawful actions are not tolerated at all and be warned that everyone who participated in these acts of mob violence will be arrested and taken before the courts of law,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
The Herald interviewed some of the victims. They claimed their attackers were wearing MDC-T regalia. One of the victims, Mr Tonderai Nemasango, a municipal policeman said during most of their patrols they only exchanged words with vendors.
“Vendors are verbally abusive every time we confiscate their goods following their unwillingness to move to designated vending sites.
“The attack on Monday seemed well-planned as some vendors deliberately arranged their wares in front of us, a move that was meant to provoke municipal police into action which is what we did and they started attacking us with bricks.”
He said some of the vendors were wearing MDC-T regalia.
“There was also a car parked along Nelson Mandela Avenue that was loaded with stones and we believe that they were fetching the stones from the car to attack us,” he said.
Three other municipal police, including Ms Pamela Chipendo, who was also dragged and beaten inside Harvest House echoed the same sentiments.
The other two preferred anonymity for fear of being victimised.
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu dismissed allegations that stones and weapons were being fetched from Harvest House as false and unfounded.
“The MDC-T is a lawful political party in this country. We are a non-violent political party and for anyone to suggest that thugs were picking up stones and weapons at Harvest House, that is absolute nonsense,” he said.
He said just because their party headquarters was in the city centre, does not mean that they keep stones and weapons.
“If the police are having difficulties in policing in the city, they should not blame the MDC-T. It is their skunk and they should learn to skin it,” Mr Gutu said.
Harare City principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme said genuine vendors had relocated to designated vending sites and those resisting relocation had hidden political motives.
“It is unfortunate that unlawful vendors took it upon themselves to retaliate our call to cleaning up the streets hence they ended up resorting to violence and seriously injuring our officers and damaging property,” he said.