Margaret Matibiri and Takudzwa Matambura—
Police yesterday fought running battles with illegal vendors who were protesting the confiscation of their wares by municipal police in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD). Police had to fire teargas across the CBD to disperse the vendors, some of whom fought back throwing stones at the law enforcement agents. Business was brought to a halt in most parts of the city centre as shop owners closed their shops fearing that the warring vendors would destroy their properties.
Some vagrants, who were allegedly given food by vendors that operate near Harvest House (the MDC-T headquarters), also joined in the protests. Harare City Council is carrying out an operation to remove the illegal vendors from the city’s pavements.
On Monday, the illegal vendors opened the fuel tank of a municipal tractor used to confiscate goods and sprinkled diesel on the road. The vendors threw cardboard boxes on the spilt diesel around the tractor with the intention of burning the property belonging to the municipality, only to be stopped by police officers who were deployed to the scene.
The vendors fled the scene on sight of the law enforcement agents. The City Council’s acting spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said vendors should operate at designated places saying the municipal police would not be intimidated by the illegal vendors from fulfilling their duties.
“The council’s position is (that) all vendors must trade from designated points. The city pavements should be used by residents without hindrance from illegal vendors. “Vendors were allocated vending sites, which they should use. All the other public spaces are not set aside for vending. Council had a duty to enforce compliance with vending sites. No amount of intimidation will deter the municipal police from fulfilling their policing duties,” he said.
Happy Events, a clothing boutique along George Silundika and Angwa Street, had its business severely affected as police threw teargas inside the shop. “We closed our shop when the disturbances started. Police, however, threw teargas into the shop, breaking one of our glass doors in the process.
“We lost a day’s business because customers could not enter the shop owing to the heavily felt teargas that is still in the building. “We also sent home some of our workers who were greatly affected by the teargas,” said a worker from the shop who refused to be named.
Shops such as Ok Supermarket, Bata, TV Sales and Home and other small retail shops in the CBD were closed for the better part of yesterday afternoon. Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charamba said she was attending other police business during the day and was still to be briefed on the matter, referring questions to Ass Insp Tarirayi Dube, whose phone went unanswered.