The recent Typhoid outbreak in Mbare has seen the wrath of the law descend on vendors, who stand accused by council of causing bad hygiene in the city centre. It is one more battle in the long war between the two parties.
At the end of February, vendors could be seen in town with crates and baskets of goods for sale, but tending to them in a distracted fashion as they looked into the distance for incoming trucks laden with police and council officials.
When a truck appeared, a game of hide and seek would start, with vendors hiding their wares, and darting into alleys, shops, or crowds to go unnoticed.
The truck would pass, and they would slowly trickle out again.
As soon as the truck was out of sight, vendors would emerge again with a sigh of relief. But it was only a short while before another truck would come from the other direction and panic would ensue again.
Vendors have no choice but to play these games, as formal jobs are non-existent.
One vendor, Melody Majasi, had this to say when Harare News took to the streets in January this year: “We haven’t worked since morning. It was all a cat and mouse affair; we don’t know how we are going to survive if they treat us as criminals like this. We have no other option, industries have downsized while others have closed shop.”
This latest clampdown came after a ministerial taskforce that included the Ministry of Health, Local Government and council officials, had identified vending as the chief culprit that caused a typhoid outbreak which claimed two lives and left dozens others hospitalised.
City of Harare (CoH) has since mid-January been rounding up vendors throughout the city.
Vendors have been singled out as being responsible for causing the spread of the water-borne disease in the capital.
As the war between the two escalated, there was public outcry, and a vendors’ body, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) got a court interdict against the ZRP and council to halt removals.
However, reports indicate that the ZRP and CoH went ahead with evictions, promising to challenge the interdict in court.
The city’s acting Town Clerk, Ms Josephine Ncube, was quoted in a local daily saying unless served with a court order, there was nothing stopping them from evicting the vendors.
According to advocate Tonderai Bhatasara, who represented the vendors, High Court Judge, David Mangota, had ruled that; “Respondents have been interdicted from initiating or proceeding with the demolition of vending stalls, destruction of property and eviction of first applicant (Viset)’s members from areas they are operating from.”