Traders, residents sue govt over market stall demolitions

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By Mary Taruvinga

SEVERAL informal traders and residents have filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order to stop local and central government from demolishing their vending stalls and tuckshops across the country.

The application was filed on Sunday through Dr Tarisai Mutangi and Moses Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

The informal traders and residents together with some residents associations, protested that the widespread demolition on tuckshops, vending stalls and other property belonging to or used by small and medium enterprises and informal traders by the authorities was unlawful and should be stopped immediately.

“The informal traders, residents and residential associations represented by Chitungwiza Residents Trust and Kushinga Epworth Residents Association, which have some members, who are individual owners and users of tuckshops and vending stalls, want the High Court to interdict local authorities and central government from demolishing any tuckshops and vending stalls,” said ZLHR in a statement.

Local and central government authorities have been demolishing informal traders’ market stalls and tuckshops across the country after Health minister Obadiah Moyo issued Circular Minute 3 of 2020 addressed to leaders of local authorities advising them of a recent Cabinet resolution and instructing them to “take advantage of the national lockdown to clean up and renovate small and medium enterprises and informal traders workspaces.

Moyo also implored them “to make every effort to comply with the resolution”.

In purported compliance with Moyo’s circular, local authorities and their associations by way of random verbal announcement, supposedly notified owners and users of tuckshops and vending stalls to pull down their tuckshops and vending stalls or face demolition and immediately commenced destruction of properties.

The informal traders and residents argued that Moyo’s circular is unlawful as it was not issued in terms of any provision of the law.

It is also their argument that there is no law which requires local authorities to execute Cabinet resolutions outside the provisions of the applicable laws.

Local authorities, the informal traders and residents said, have been indiscriminately demolishing tuckshops and vending stalls without any consultation with the affected citizens including those who have been paying fees and levies to councils.

“By demanding such fees and rates, local authorities do acknowledge the legal existence of the affected vending stalls and tuckshops and cannot suddenly deem them illegal structures, the informal traders charged,” said ZLHR.

The informal traders and residents said local councils have not complied with section 199(3) of the Urban Councils Act, which requires proper notice of any proposed demolition of illegal structure to be given to the owner of such a structure, a provision which provides for an appeal against the notice to be filed with the Administrative Court within 28 days, during which period no action may be taken on the basis of the notice until the appeal is either determined or abandoned.

The case is pending.