By Samuel Takawira
Multitudes of people could be seen jostling up and down the streets of Harare. Suddenly a cacophony wave of whistles could be heard from all directions. Upon hearing the whistles disorder starts reigning. A mixture of the young, middle aged and old vendors promptly grab their waves, dropping some in the process.
After such a scene tomatoes, chocolates, second hand clothes, and many other wares scatter around the ground. Some passersby take advantage of this disorder and grab the dispersed wares.
This easily tells the ‘cat and mouse’ story that subsists between municipality police and vendors. The scene describes the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare immediately after municipality police raid vendors, whom they accuse of refusing to relocate to designated places.
After an interval of two to three hours, a Harare City council truck heavily loaded with municipality police could be seen roving around Copacabana area.
True to this assertion municipality police dressed in blue overalls could be seen approaching from all directions heading towards vendors.
In retaliation vendors took positions ready to escape with their wares.
“This is how we earn a living,” narrated Regard a vendor how has been left stranded by the recent wave of attacks on vendors.
“We are now surviving on playing cats and mouse games with municipal police, we cannot afford to relocate to the designated areas as there is no business activity to talk about.
“As you can see there are a lot of people on this place and such numbers will also mean that, we vendors will make considerable amounts of money,” he said as he pointed to a sea of faces wondering up and down the area,” he said.
Chiedza Tumba, another vendor who has a make shift shop erected a few metres from the entrance at a FoodWorld store at Copacabbana said, “It is better to play cats and mouth games with the council than relocating to the designated sites”.
Relocating vendors to the new vending sites has proved to be a convoluted task as vendors have vowed to continue playing the cat-and-mouse games with the municipal police, despite risking the confiscation of their products.
Michael Chideme, Harare City Council Spokesperson said, “Council will work tirelessly to ensure that that sanity is restored in the city”.
The debate to relocate vendors started in February when the then Minister of Local Government, Dr Ignatius Chombo insisted that all illegal vendors be flushed out of Harare central business district (CBD), in a move he said was aimed at restoring the capital’s sunshine status.
There is another saddening dimension to this story. When municipal police invade vendor’s stalks, a lot of wares are lost in the process, with wares such as eggs, tomatoes and bottles of cooking oil breaking as they try to protect their wares from seizure.
Douglas Shumbayaonda, the Board Vice Chairperson of National Vendors Union Zimbabwe, vowed that vendors will keep coming to the streets despite the ongoing municipal raids, which he describes as barbaric acts by municipality officers.
He also said council is to blame since it did not conduct a proper research on the alternative places to relocate vendors.
“They did not engage us, yet we are some of the stakeholders. We should have been consulted and map the way forward together,” he said.
Originally published on www.263chat.com