By Chitownews citizen reporter Admire Mutize.
Vendors in Chitungwiza organized under the umbrella of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) conducted a clean-up campaign at Huruyadzo shopping centre in St. Mary’s on Tuesday. The clean-up campaign was synchronized with a Stop Typhoid and other diarrheal diseases awareness raising campaign where participants distributed flyers with information on precautions residents and vendors should take to combat the spread of the highly infectious sanitation related disease.
The flyers distributed urged residents and vendors to, ‘wash hands thoroughly before handling food, drink boiled water, avoid placing ice in drinks and avoid risky foods’. Ironically the flyers cited ‘contamination of water supply by sewage’ as a major cause of the typhoid outbreak- a factor which is outside of residents’ control.
The clean up exercise was welcomed by community members who applauded the mostly female participants for taking it upon themselves to ensure a clean operating environment for informal economy workers.
However some of the residents questioned the timing of the clean-up campaign which coincided with the violent eviction of vendors in the Harare CBD with some cynics claiming the exercise was meant to forestall a similar ban and forced evictions in Chitungwiza.
‘It is the duty of the Chitungwiza Municipality to clean up our public spaces and this should be done on a weekly basis to maintain a clean environment- what these old ladies are doing is only symbolic and not practical as uncollected refuse will litter the same areas they have cleaned after two days’, said Jon Nyika (37) a resident on St. Mary’s.
The clean-up campaign comes against the backdrop of a ban on vending activities and subsequent violent eviction of vendors from the Harare central business district by municipal police backed by the police’s anti-riot squad popularly known as ‘mangongongo’.
The controversial ‘ban on vending activities was initiated by Ministry of health authorities and implemented under the auspices of the Harare city council as a knee-jerk reaction to the outbreak of typhoid in the city which has claimed two lives and infected dozens more.
The violent eviction of vendors from the Harare CBD has turned into a political ‘hot potato’ with violent clashes between vendors and police degenerating into riots on Tuesday afternoon in the Harare CBD.
According to the Vendors initiative for Socio-economic transformation (VISET), a pressure group representing vendors in Zimbabwe which advocates for the regularization of vending activities; vending provides livelihoods to more than 100 000 families in the Harare alone and has become the employer of last resort in the context of Zimbabwe’s imploding economy and high unemployment rate.
The group has been mobilizing its members to resist the evictions and approached the High court where it obtained a high court order restraining the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Harare City Council from evicting vendors operating in the CBD pending the determination of VISET’s urgent chamber application.
In a press stamen issued on Tuesday afternoon after clashes between vendors and police in the Harare CBD, VISET strongly condemned “the violence that the riot and municipal police meted out on vendors and called on the Zimbabwe human rights commission to investigate the gross human rights violations that left more than 26 of its members injured”.