Obert Chifamba Maincaland Bureau
Vendors in Mutare got a temporary reprieve on Monday after Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Mandi Chimene instructed council and police to allow them to sell their wares from the edges of pavements in the evenings only, to allow free movement of people. Minister Chimene said the move was temporary and meant to allow the vendors to continue getting an income, as the majority of them depended on the trade, while council and her office would explore ways of establishing proper market stalls for organised business.
“I want council to put demarcations outlining where people will be allowed to display their wares and should anyone be caught on the wrong side of that line, then all vendors will be summarily removed from the streets because that’s a clear sign that they do not want to be orderly. This is not going to remain like that for a long time, as my office has already started engaging council on the possibility of establishing proper market facilities like the ones some of these vendors are shunning, arguing that the tables are too high for easy conducting of business and that there are no toilets and running water to maintain the place smart,” she said.
Minister Chimene made the announcement when she toured the streets of Mutare to assess the situation in the wake of rampant vending activities that were making movement almost impossible. People who gathered to listen to her briefing included officials from Mutare City, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the police, vendors and the general public. Vendors seized the opportunity to tell Minister Chimene that the market stalls council set up in the past were physically detached from the people, which made it difficult for them to conduct meaningful business.
“We want market stalls similar to those at Manica Post where there is water and toilets plus they are close to the road and people can easily spot what they want from there, which makes them ideal for business,” a vendor, who requested anonymity told Minister Chimene during the meeting.
Market stalls at Manica Post were constructed by the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (1980), as part of its corporate social responsibility to the Mutare community and their opening in September brought lots of relief to vendors that managed to get space there. Last week, President Mugabe ordered vendors to be removed from the streets of Harare, as they had literally converted all open spaces into markets, thereby making the streets almost impassable even to motorists, which was endangering lives of the general public.
Harare City council, supported by police, descended on the vendors after that directive and cleaned the streets of the menace, which set a precedent for other councils, Mutare included. Mutare City acting town clerk, Mr Cephas Vuta told the gathering that council had started engaging reputable financiers such as banks with a view to partnering them in establishing state-of-the-art market stalls.
“We want to establish market stalls similar to those constructed along Simon Mazorodze in Harare if you have seen them,” he said. “Our intention is to make sure vending is done properly with proper health facilities and without fears of disease outbreaks that are typical of poor hygienic conditions associated with haphazard vending.”