Riot Police Called To Fourth Street Bus Terminus

This vendor had already packed up her wares at 2:30p.m. this afternoon, saying it was now too dangerous to continue working at the Fourth Street Terminus. Riot police had just scattered forex dealers and youths who had turned violent.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 5 November 2009

A few moments ago there was chaos here in Harare at Fourth Street Bus Terminus, where soldiers rioted last year and clashed openly with tear-gas-wielding policemen.

We got an indication that something was wrong around 1:30p.m when a blue Nissan Hardbody twin-cab offloaded a horde of youths just outside our offices on George Silundika Ave (we are opposite Raylton Club and just round the corner from the Bus Terminus). The youths were rowdy and the truck was being driven by a middle-aged woman.

A few moments later, there was commotion at the Bus Terminus, with vendors and ordinary people running in all directions.

We saw Harare Municipal police running down some young men. A few of them turned round and started fighting back with stones and anything they could pick up. Soon, it was personal physical contact, with the Harare Municipal policemen being beaten up by youths and even women who sell forex at the notorious black market spot.

The Municipal Police were beaten so thoroughly that they called in the riot police, who showed up with three trucks and it was then that people just scattered and the whole terminus was deserted.

It is not clear what the Municipal police were after, but most likely they just wanted to clean up the congested area, where even buses coming from South Africa could not get into the rank. The problem is that this area is also the headquarters of black market dealers, who are now back in business.

These black market dealers are simply massacring the South African Rand. Whereas, in the banks, the US dollar is worth around 7 Rand, the black market dealers are paying 14 rand for each US dollar.

The riot police in Zimbabwe is the most feared unit of the police force. When they show up, no one remains standing. They use force out of proportion, as was shown during the beating that Morgan Tsvangirai got at their hands before he became Prime Minister.

Only last week, I was told that the police, after beating him, were actually convinced that they had killed him, even as they called the ambulance to take him away. Obviously, he survived.

The young men dropped by the truck near our offices clearly had advance warning that there was going to be a clean-up and I am certain the lady that was driving the car is a forex baron of some sort, who did not take kindly to her business being disrupted by the municipal police.

Now that they have got the riot police involved, they will have to move off for a period until things quieten down. But there is no stopping this vice at Fourth Street. After every "clean-up", they come back stronger than ever before.


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