Council ropes in army to swoop on defiant Zanu PF aligned street vendors

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE Bulawayo City Council has approached the Joint Operation Command (JOC), a coalition of State security agencies headed by the army, following futile efforts to remove Zanu PF activists who have illegally converted one of the city’s streets into a vegetable market.

Zanu PF youths, with support of their leaders, have been accused of taking over 5th Street in the central business district, where they have illegally rented out vending bays to vendors.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the city’s “Big Spring Cleaning Week” launch Monday, Bulawayo Mayor, Solomon Mguni admitted the issue was now beyond the local authority’s control.

“They (vendors) were settled here by politicians from the ruling party (Zanu PF) and we have tried to engage both the party and state security apparatus to try and remove them from this road.

“This is a gazetted public road and it was closed to vending,” said Mguni.

The mayor said the local has decentralised all vending markets in the city as per the government‘s policy, but noted vendors were not willing to relocate to the new designated sites.

He added: “We have to enforce, but now it requires the collective efforts of all government agencies such as Environmental Management Authority (EMA), health authorities, state  security apparatus as well as our own security so as to ensure that we reopen 5th Street to the public. So it is a question of enforcement which has gone beyond the local authority’s control”.

The local authority has held numerous meetings with JOC and the vendors leaders but a solution is yet to come.

“We have held various meetings with JOC and the vendors leaders so as to find an amicable solution.

“The engagements are continuing and ultimately it is the JOC which should ensure that these people are removed,”  he said.

The government was recently forced to call a crisis meeting following extortion complaints raised against identified Zanu PF officials, who are  taking bribes from the displaced informal traders.

The mafia-like operations of the ‘vending space barons’ are prejudicing the local authority of millions of potential revenue.