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STREET vending has become a menace in Harare as the Harare City Council dithers on the removal of thousands of illegal vendors who have flooded the CBD.

Council claims it has erected vending booths in the city centre to accommodate the ever increasing number of vendors, but organisations representing the traders say this is not true.

Chaos has become the order of the day in Harare as most streets in the CBD, including the once upmarket First Street are now virtually impassable as vendors have taken up every available space on the streets and pavements.

Legislators on Thursday joined the chorus of those calling for the removal of vendors from the streets, arguing the mushrooming of unlicensed traders was now a threat to formal businesses including retail shops.

Sten Zvorwadza, National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe chairperson said council had not constructed any infrastructure for vendors, contrary to its claims that they had put in place stalls enough to accommodate over 20 000 vendors.

So hot has become the vending issue in Harare that councillors warned the town clerk, Tendai Mahachi to urgently deal with the issue which is now being treated as a security threat.

According to the minutes of the city’s information and publicity committee, there was a call for “proper handling of the publicity of the issue of vendors in Harare”.

The finance and development committee in its April 16 meeting also expressed dismay over the increasing number of vendors in the city centre as it had affected revenue collection.

“The committee was aised that the city had started collecting revenue from vendors, however, due to illegal activities which had mushroomed in the city, the collection was insignificant,” the minutes read.

Council said it would soon liaise with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to remove vendors.

The vendors union estimate that more than a million people in Harare were surviving directly from vending with more than 100 000 people occupying stalls in the city.

“They have not engaged us as vendors on the booths in the city centre and who will benefit from such. I had a discussion with the town clerk but no mention of such was made,” said Zvorwadza.

“We have more than 100 000 vendors in the city centre but the figure is conservative, it might not be the actual representation of the true picture.”

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said the increase of vendors in the city was evidence of a failed economy and inability by government to provide jobs.

The CBD has become an eyesore due to the vendors who now occupy almost every open space.

Debate has been raging on how to deal with the issue of vendors as it has become clear council and government are clueless on what to do given the state of the economy.

“Our members are the poor majority and most of them are vendors. As long as people are not going to work, nothing much can be done. While vendors have congested the streets, they have created a new problem of littering. There is a new challenge of handbag snatching and there is very little local authorities can do to deal with vendors,” said Shumba.

“Their increase is evidence of a collapsed economy. Their visibility everywhere even along strategic and significant buildings in town tells a story of poverty that has reached alarming levels. Vending isn’t a crime, but we have criminals who have taken aantage of this situation to wreak havoc.”

He added: “The best way is for the local authority to be very flexible and be ready to engage and be very patient because these people also want their children to go to school and to have food on their tables.”

Labour unions and opposition parties blame the vending crisis on the Zanu PF government which has failed to provide the promised 2,2 million jobs.

Council has since set up a team of nine councillors to come up with a way forward on the issue of illegal vending.

Observers said the attempt by council to create vending sites was bound to fail in the same way the city tried to bring up a holding bay for kombis in an attempt to decongest the city centre.

Although the holding bay has been put in place, it has quickly turned into a failed project as hundreds of kombis are found in the CBD at any given time, fighting running battles with the municipal police.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard