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THE government is moving in to restore law and order in Harare, whose city centre has been invaded by illegal vendors selling trinkets and other wares on street pavements, while owners of dilapidated buildings have been ordered to restore them.

The invasion by vendors has resulted in some retailers relocating from the central business district (CBD) to suburban malls which are privately owned and where vending is strictly prohibited.

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has now ordered vendors in the CBD to move to designated selling points or risk the wrath of the law.

Launching the Harare “Sustainable clean-up campaign” last week, Chombo said the government was committed to partnering the council “to bring back the glow and beauty of our capital city”.

Harare used to be one of the cleanest cities in Africa but has over the years been reduced to a huge receptacle of filth as residents litter the streets and Harare City Council fails to clear the garbage.

Chombo aptly put it when he said: “Ladies and gentlemen, our city is decaying and becoming dilapidated.”

His sentiments come at a time the city is preparing to host a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State Summit scheduled for April, and amid concern from residents and authorities that the general level of cleanliness continues to deteriorate.

The meeting will be held as a follow-up to the one held in Victoria in August 2014 where it was agreed that SADC should accelerate industrialization and promote value addition so that it does not continue to export raw materials.

The city centre has literally been turned into a vending site littered with filth. People pile their wares on street pavements and block the paths of bona fide shoppers who are now being forced to manoeuvre their way past stacks of vegetables, compact discs, shoes, belts and many other items.

Waste management

Harare Residents Trust (HRT) coordinator Precious Shumba said there was need for sustainable waste management to ensure a clean environment.

“Citizens can in the short-to-medium term establish street cleaners’ clubs where there is self-regulation in terms of waste disposal within the communities, with the City of Harare providing equipment and vehicles and with businesses, industry and the government coming aboard with more equipment and incentives to encourage more citizen participation,” he said.

HRT is a pressure group agitating for the rights of residents.

Some motorists have also turned their vehicles into mini-offices and retail shops from where they sell cell phones and airtime recharge cards while offering other services such as WhatsApp installations on the phones.

Cheeky vendors target specific shops selling the same goods as theirs and put up shop next to the entrances in a bid to catch customers before they get into the legitimate outlets.

Chombo warned that government agencies and the council would be the enforcement agents to ensure that order was restored in the city.

“There should be no vending on road pavements, traffic intersections, road islands, middle of the road and in front of shops and offices,” he said.

Vendors not keen to move

However, some vendors are not willing to move to the designated sites because they do not want to pay the 2 dollars a day per site fees to the council.

A vendor selling what appeared to be fake leather belts said circumstances had forced him to work in the streets and would gladly leave if jobs were available.

He also expressed his objection to paying the daily fees to the council, saying that he was not making much money because of competition from other vendors.

Amos Mudhuva, 57, a local resident applauded the move to locate the vendors in designated sites.

He said, however, that hunger and poverty were forcing more people into the streets to sell all types of goods.

“Whatever happened to the 2 million jobs the ruling party promised us if it retained power in the elections?” he asked.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF in 2013 promised more than 2 million jobs during its tenure, but so far nothing tangible has happened on the ground.

Chombo said he was also concerned about the poor state of some buildings and aised property owners to make them more presentable.

Warning to building owners

Instructions to spruce up buildings have been made over the years ahead of major summits, but in many cases property owners have not taken heed of them.

“I am instructing Harare City Council to engage property owners to spruce buildings with immediate effect. I need not emphasize that failure to do so may result in the closure of some of the unsightly buildings,” he warned.

Chombo said the city could so far accommodate 6,000 informal traders dealing in fruits and vegetables, dried foods and flea markets and 10 vending sites had been designated.

He also urged the council to engage some property owners who had closed shop because of the prevailing economic hardships to convert their properties into mini-shops for use by the informal sector.

Apart from the vendors, some commuter omnibus (kombi) drivers are refusing to use designated parking lots and pickup and drop-off points, opting to block traffic as they go about with their business in the city centre.

Chombo said this practice should stop, warning that wanton littering, unplanned vending and chaotic movement of public transport would not be tolerated.

Kombi drivers have become a law unto themselves, defying police orders to stop and engaging in high-speed chases–even against the flow of traffic–and risking the lives of passengers and other road users.

Several passengers and pedestrians have lost their lives over the years during high-speed chases involving the police and errant kombi drivers.

Mudhuva said kombi drivers were a menace on the roads and were responsible for most of the accidents that happened.

“They have no discipline. It’s like they were born of the same parents. They inconvenience you and all they say is ‘I am sorry’ whenever they bulldoze their way past other motorists,” he complained.

Xinhua

Source : New Zimbabwe

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