Harare Police Suspend Raids As More of Them Are Arrested

It was at this ground that a vendor was killed on Monday by Harare Municipal Police, who are said to have tripped in and then kicked him in the groin as he fell. These vendors, whom I photographed earlier today, worked with Tonde, the deceased vendor and they pointed to a spot directly behind them, in an open space where children play football, as the spot where the vendor was killed. They are all back in business, saying they have not stolen anything from anyone. They blame "big politicians" for setting the police on them.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 12 November 2009

Harare City Council has stopped all raids on "unlicensed" and "Illegal" operators (vendors) in the Zimbabwean capital after 19 more of its Municipal Police were arrested by the Zimbabwe Republic Police yesterday.

The City Council had vowed that it would not stop its operation to "clean up the city", saying to me last week that this week they would be going after the illegal foreign currency dealers at Roadport, at the Fourth Street Bus Terminus, from where buses to and from South Africa operate.

The palpable anger of residents, which led to riots unseen since the days of the food riots of the late 1990s, has led the MDC-Tsvangirai dominated council to reconsider. These are the same people who have voted overwhelmingly for them. When they were not in control of Harare City Council, the MDC-T always spoke up in defense of the vendors, saying they should be allowed to fend for their families. This is what fueled anger on Monday, since most of the residents of Mbare (whom Mugabe has previously publicly insulted as "people without a totem" (a grave insult in Zimbabwe) felt that they now no longer had anyone looking out for their interests, having been betrayed by the MDC-T, whom they put into power.

The suspension of raids by the City Council is yet to be announced officially, but the defiant vendors of Mbare are back in the streets, selling their wares.

When I spoke to some of them today, they were insistent that they will not be barred from selling, saying there are no jobs in the country. "We do not steal from anyone, we are making an honest living and they want us to stop? Then what will we do? Steal? We have never refused to pay, but what we don't want is to chased like we are thieves."

They are also adamant that it is "big politicians" who have been exposed to have stands in the licensed and regulated Mupedzanhamo Flea Market nearby who are egging on the City Council. Business at Mupedzanhamo, they claim, could be much better if these street-side vendors were chased away so that they do not intercept customers before they get to the licensed market.

Just over a month ago, the City Council itself claimed that the Mupedzanhamo Market Stalls were owned to a very large extent by politicians and other well-connected, prosperous people, with the Minister of Local Government, Ignatious Chombo claimed to own 20 stalls at the market.


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