Blessings Chidakwa and Vongai Chinjeke
The huge demand for legal trading areas by the informal sector in the Mbare area is being met by the reopening of the Mupedzanhamo flea market in north Mbare while Shawasha grounds, the open space in the midst of the hostel area between the two main hostel complexes, has been designated for controlled use by those in illegal markets along Cripps Road and Remembrance Drive.
The reopening and opening of legal markets complements the demolitions of illegal structures nearby that blocked traffic and caused many other problems, thus allowing the traders to move from illegality to legal status very quickly.
The major Government initiative is not only to ensure orderly business very close to where the illegal traders were operating and well inside the area where they want to remain, but also to totally shut out the “space barons”.
These are the gangs operating mafia-style protection rackets that extort money from the traders and have even taken over the public toilets and charge users.
Similar initiatives are planned for the rest of Harare province, which includes Ruwa and Chitungwiza, to ensure traders and small businesses have adequate access to new legal trading areas where their customers are.
The Government is now taking a lead role to have the necessary legal business conditions created, protect people from the criminal gangs allocating illegal trading stands, and ensuring that the local authorities can reclaim the control and revenue they have lost in recent years to criminal gangs.
The critical step is to ensure that there is a large enough area for legal trading so traders can co-operate with the authorities rather than deal with the criminal space barons.
Speaking yesterday on the demolition of illegal structures in Mbare and shutting down the space barons, Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Senator Oliver Chidawu, said the twin moves to open large legal markets would provide traders with orderly and convenient facilities and protect them from the gangs preying on them.
Minister Chidawu hammered the space barons, who were encouraging the construction of illegal structures in Mbare and were extorting money from people trying to operate their small businesses in these structures.
“As you are aware, on January 8 the Harare City Council commenced demolitions of illegal structures in Mbare and regained control of public toilets which had been forcibly taken over by space barons who were charging members of the public a premium to get access to the toilets.
“We had just resolved that those who had been trading in the streets are now all going into the Shawasha grounds. All will be accommodated there. That is where they are going to trade.
“We have resolved to appoint a committee and will open Mupedzanhamo now, so no one will be in the streets.”
Minister Chidawu said the position of Government is that any local authority must be able to collect revenue from its facilities and spaces as well as boost its coffers in order to help improve service delivery.
He reiterated Government’s commitment to providing safe work spaces to traders and affording them an opportunity for beneficial working partnerships with local authorities.
“It is our intention to improve the governance culture and ensure compliance with the rule of law within our jurisdiction. It is only by restoring order that we can attract both domestic and foreign investment and ultimately achieve an upper middle income society as envisaged by Vision 2030.
“We are mindful of the need to provide alternative workspaces for people who are affected by the removal of illegal structures. To this end we are liaising with the City of Harare to identify new areas where traders can be relocated and have a mutually beneficial working arrangement with the local authority,” he said.
Minister Chidawu said there were rogue space barons claiming to have the endorsement of Zanu PF to collect money. This was totally false as the party had no link whatsoever to these individuals.
“Currently, we have rogues who are besmirching the names of political parties, falsely claiming to have endorsement from political parties to collect money from informal traders, public toilets and bus ranks,” he said.
“Let me take this opportunity to make it clear that Zanu PF does not tolerate indiscipline of the sort that is being perpetrated by these space barons and has never received any money from these individuals,” he said.
Minister Chidawu suggested that Harare City Council considers the model that resulted in the construction of Kudzanai Bus Terminus in Gweru, which was commissioned by President Mnangagwa, as an option as it upgrades markets.
The Kudzanai terminus was significantly upgraded with a large and orderly market in proper shelters next to the revamped terminus, the whole complex being walled and with decent security to keep criminals out but allowing customers and passengers easy access.
“We also have a problem at Glen View Area 8 Complex where rogue extortionists are collecting illegal fees from the traders at the market and have even brazenly formed an illegal committee as part of their extortionist scheme.
“There is a bona fide committee composed of traders who pay levies to the City of Harare but this committee has been violently displaced by some rogue space barons. We shall be moving to restore order at this complex as well,” he said.
Harare Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mr Tafadzwa Muguti, said restoration of order was key in the province.
“In line with the demolitions we are proceeding from Mbare to all local authorities. We are therefore asking anybody who has been operating illegally at places that you know you do not have papers from the local authority to please remove your materials.
“Such a person should approach the councils so that he or she can actually be given somewhere to work from just like the Shawasha grounds,” he said.
Officials from Harare, Chitungwiza and Ruwa endorsed the move by the Government to bring order in their jurisdiction at the press conference also attended by provincial Government officials and security forces.