By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
07 May 2014
Informal traders in Mutare are said to be up in arms with the local authority after officials signed a deal handing over the Meikles Park, where they have been operating, to top ZANU PF official Esau Mupfumi.
A Wednesday report in the online news agency NewZimbabwe.com said the order to give the land to businessman Mupfumi, who is a ZANU PF central committee member, came from Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.
Chombo has reportedly offered the Mutare City Council another piece of State land outside the central business district where the vendors are set to be relocated.
It is said that the ZANU PF businessman plans to build a five star hotel on the site and has given the informal traders until the end of the year to vacate.
But in the meantime Mupfumi has ordered them to pay all rentals directly to him.
Mutare-based journalist Obey Manayiti said there was a lot of anger in the border town because of the deal, with many questioning why the government was prepared to parcel out State land for the benefit of one individual.
Manayiti said Mutare was experiencing serious challenges related to the high unemployment rate as many companies in the city had closed, and informal trade was driving the city’s economy.
“So moving the informal traders to a location outside the city centre will affect their business and they are unhappy with the deal,” he said.
“Many people see this as just another of the ruling party’s ways of rewarding a few of its top officials at the expense of the struggling majority,” said Manayiti.
According to NewZimbabwe, Mutare Mayor Tatenda Nhemarare struggled to justify Mupfumi’s hotel plans to the traders, most of them women, who felt betrayed that ZANU PF was now pushing them out after it allocated them the stalls in the run-up to last year’s elections.
In 2011 the Mutare council, led by MDC-T Mayor Brian James, opposed a similar move by Chombo who tried but failed to have Meikles Park sold to a Chinese firm. Chombo subsequently fired the mayor.