Council Police Detain Bulawayo Vendors
Seven Bulawayo vendors who operate from Jason Moyo and Fifth Avenue in Bulawayo were temporarily detained last Thursday by council police officers for operating illegally. This area is popular for selling imported second hand clothes from Mozambique known as amabhelo or mabhero.
One of the detained vendors who preferred anonymity said they were quickly released after being told they were trading illegally.
“We were taken to Vundu near Renkini bus terminus and told that we are operating illegally. They quickly released us and gave us our wares saying if we continue selling there, we will be made to pay a $10 fine.”
When this reporter arrived, some of the vendors had begun packing their wares. Others said they had been told to stay put just for today (Thursday) after resisting moves by council officers to remove them.One of the vendors identified as Robert said there were about 15 council personnel, some in their blue uniform. They are said to have come in a truck and another small car. They took some of the vendors’ wares and ordered them to get in the truck.
One woman identified as Ma Moyo said, “We were told to pack and leave today but resisted. The council police threatened to forcefully remove us tomorrow (today) if we continue trading.”
NAVUZ Seeks Council’s Audience
While this was happening, the city centre coordinator for the National Vendors Association (NAVUZ), Sithabile Moyo, together with 15 other vendors’ representatives rushed to the council offices to seek clarification on the matter. They argued that Bulawayo City Mayor, Martin Moyo had promised that they would not be moved.
“The Mayor clearly said we would only vacate after they have a plan as to where we should sell our wares, he never said we would be made to vacate like what is happening in Harare”, she said.
Councilors Silas Chigora (ward 24), Mlandu Ncube (Ward 1) and Mzama Dube (Ward 25) met with vendors and vehemently denied that council had given a directive to remove vendors from the street. Frantic calls to other council offices by Councilor Chigora were futile as it was not clear who had given the directive to move the vendors.
Councillor Ncube said: “We have said time and again as council that we have no problems with vendors in Bulawayo. We cannot chase you off the streets because we know there is no employment in Zimbabwe, how will you pay our bills if we chase you away?”
“We agreed as Council to stay away from the chaos that is happening in Harare, we have said if the government wants to remove vendors from the streets, we will not be part of it as we were not consulted on the issue,” he said to loud applause from vendors.
“We need to take action on those people who are misbehaving and being overzealous. Bulawayo had pride in its industries but today it’s a ghost town. Vendors are now the new industry. Most of the people vending here are educated and an employable caliber, but no one can employ them, he added.
Councilor Ncube instructed the vendors to go and sell without being harassed. He however encouraged them to keep their sites clean and get registered so that they would be allocated bays.“You are now the Dunlop of Bulawayo, go and sell so you can fend for your families. We are yet to issue a notice on designated vending sites; this way we are able to protect you. The city however has to remain clean”, he added.
Efforts to get comments from Bulawayo City Mayor Martin Moyo and his Deputy Gift Banda were futile as they did not answer their mobile phones.
Chamber Secretary Skhangele Zhou when asked about the situation responded that she was on leave. “I am not aware of anything, I am on leave. I have not been to work in the past three works. You could try to contact the Town Clerk”, she said. The Town clerk, Middleton Nyoni’s, mobile phone could not be reached.
Meanwhile most Bulawayo vendors have condemned what has been happening to Harare vendors.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Her Zimbabwe, the Provincial Chairperson for NAVUZ said their union exists to protect vendors and does not require a joining fee. He implored government to stop harassing vendors.
“Vending is our life, no one aspires to be a vendor but this is what is available to us in the time being. People are suffering and until the economic situation changes, vendors should be left alone across the country,” he said.
All images by Vimbai Chinembiri