By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
29 July 2014
A baby was run over and crushed to death by a Masvingo municipal driver who was pursuing fleeing vendors on Monday.
The driver was part of a municipal police team who wanted to arrest vendors for trading at undesignated points at the popular Mucheke bus terminus.
The baby, aged 2 months according to one resident, belonged to one of the vendors and was sleeping next to its mother’s wares when the municipal police pounced.
The woman fled and left the child behind. The municipal police, who were hot in pursuit in their truck, drove over the wares and ran over the sleeping baby killing it instantly.
Sensing danger from angry onlookers the municipal workers abandoned the truck and sought refuge at the police station. Furious residents burned down the truck, together with a commuter omnibus which was parked next to it.
A police anti-riot squad attended and stopped the protest. Masvingo residents say they are fed up with the heavy-handedness of the municipality at a time when economic conditions are turning Zimbabwe into a nation of vendors.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Tuesday, Masvingo Residents and Ratepayers’ Association spokesman Christopher Chitora said this was the second incident in which municipal police had killed a person while pursuing vendors.
“In the first place, the municipal police should simply confiscate wares and arrest vendors and not run over property. This death could have been avoided had the driver not been reckless.
“This is the second time that vendor-chasing municipal police have killed. A few months ago they ran over a pupil in the same area of Mucheke and we condemn their approach to vendors as barbaric.”
Masvingo Mayor Hubert Fidze has since apologised to residents and promised to work hard to prevent such tragedies in future.
But Chitora said residents have tried on many occasions to engage the council on the issue of “dealing decently with vendors”, but the authority had ignored them.
He said the council should stop treating as criminals Zimbabweans who are only trying to earn money through honest and decent means in harsh economic times.
“These are struggling Zimbabweans who are struggling to make ends meet, people who are bearing the brunt of the current economic meltdown and this is the only way they can earn a living.
“What is illegal about selling vegetables to earn money to send your children to school or to buy food? We want this aggressive pursuit of vendors to stop. Instead council should engage us so that together we can find a way of ensuring that vendors use designated points to sell their wares,” Chitora added.
Last week in Bulawayo, police intervened to save municipal police from further assault from residents who were angry at the constant harassment and confiscation of their wares by the city workers.
On this occasion the municipal police raided the populous Renkini terminus, confiscated produce and bundled the vendors into the truck.
But while the vendors were being driven away, the canopy of the vehicle fell off injuring some of them in the process.
Upon realising that some vendors had been injured the driver tried to flee, which angered the vendors who then assaulted the municipal police.