SCORES of Harare vendors, under the banner of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ), on Thursday demonstrated at Town House over what they alleged to be extortionate and bribery tactics by municipal police officers.
The vendors, led by NAVUZ board chairperson, Sten Zvorwadza, handed over a petition to Acting Mayor, Wilton Janjazi, demanding that the council take measures to stop the harassment and extortion of money from them.
They said council should work closely with the vendors to bring rogue municipal police officers to book.
“Our issues are that our members are being confronted by municipal police officers and their goods confiscated. But instead of having these goods put through the normal processes of auctioning, municipal police are sharing the goods and giving them to their families, benefiting them directly,” Zvorwadza said.
He said local authorities and government should respect the country’s constitution which raised critical issues of support for the informal economy and the informal sector.
“We just came with a small section of our leadership in the CBD to come and hand over the petition, but if they continue to confiscate goods, we will no doubt ensure that we demonstrate weekly until they stop,” he added.
Zvorwadza said several discussions with council officials, among them the Mayor, head of departments responsible for the informal sector, as well as the Acting Town Clerk, had failed to yield
any meaningful results.
“We have not given them an ultimatum because we want them to share and be able to put their house in order. But if they don’t act, we will then increase our numbers and demand that they do it.”
The Acting Mayor acknowledged receipt of the petition and promised to look at it and find ways of addressing the issues raised.
“I have just received the petition and I am going to discuss it with the Mayor when he comes back. I am just in an acting capacity. We are going to deal with this issue as a council, with the Mayor and other councillors,” he said.
City of Harare Acting Corporate Communications Manager, Michael Chideme, said perishable goods confiscated from vendors were not returned to their owners for fear of cross contamination.
“When we confiscate perishable goods, like food items, we don’t return them to the vendors because of fears of cross contamination; we don’t want to spread diseases. But when we take goods
like clothing, we return them to the owners on payment of a penalty fee for trading illegally,” he said.
He, however, noted that only vendors trading from undesignated points were demonstrating.
“All those in permissible sites did not come here today, it is only those who are trading illegally who are blocking roads, who are blocking traffic intersections, who are operating on road islands who are coming to complain because they are against the law,” he said.
Chideme added that vendors should not pay bribes, saying it took two to tango.
“They should not pay money to anyone to influence anyone to act in any way that is unbecoming. Council has laid down structures and vendors know where they have to pay their vending fees. They don’t pay their vending fees to be allowed to do illegal things,” he added.
He said the council had a very professional municipal police which was aware of the local authority’s rules and by-laws which they adhered to.
“They know that any transgression with the law results in dismissal, so we stand by our police, but we also want to urge the vendors to trade from designated places,” he said.
Asked whether council had enough sites to accommodate all the vendors, Chideme said the absence of vending sites was not a license to trade from undesignated places. – ANA