By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
25 July 2014
Public anger at official harassment was demonstrated this week when vendors assaulted municipal police who had confiscated their goods at Bulawayo’s Renkini bus terminus.
State media reports said municipal police raided the terminus Thursday and confiscated the vendors’ goods before arresting and bundling them into a council vehicle for failing to produce vending licences.
Vendors said as they were being driven away the canopy of the vehicle fell off injuring some of them in the process. Some of the vendors said they sustained injuries as they jumped off the vehicle after they saw that the canopy falling off.
Upon realising that some vendors had been injured the driver tried to flee, sparking violence during which vendors assaulted the municipal police accusing them of being insensitive. Anti-riot police had to be called in to quell the mayhem.
Irate vendors castigated the council for confiscating their wares when all they are they are trying is to fend for their families. Some of the vendors said the government’s indigenisation programme was useless for as long as the council continued to clamp down on small and medium scale enterprises.
Vendors said they were now confused as to whom they must pay their licenses to as they were being raided on a daily basis by both the council and the ZRP.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association Information Manager, Zibusiso Dube, condemned the raids saying the council lacked understanding on the hardships faced by the residents. He said: ‘The situation is worse in Bulawayo where companies have been closing almost every day causing high employment and so people are trying to survive by selling in the streets.’
Dube said the council should change the bye laws which require all vendors to operate in designated areas where they must pay high fees. He said the situation in the country was such that not all people could afford to pay vending fees and licences. He added: ‘The council should simply stop raiding widows and orphans who are trying to eke a living and arrest criminals.’
He said there was already anger and frustration amongst the residents, not only over council but government policies. Recently the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials descended on Bulawayo where they raided small businesses, including those that have never made any profit, trying to force them to pay taxes.
It is not the first time for Bulawayo vendors to take the law into their own hands. Earlier this year vendors assaulted the council police as they seized their wares on grounds that they were trading illegally. Around the same time Umguza Rural District Council workers were assaulted as they tried to destroy houses at the Reigate Compound outside Bulawayo.