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Displaced Bulawayo vendors approach High Court

by Staff reporter
20 Jun 2020 at 08:13hrs | Views
MORE than 600 informal vendors in Bulawayo who were affected by the closure of the 5th Avenue market place in the city centre have approached the High Court challenging Bulawayo City Council's decision to relocate them from their vending sites.

As part of a raft of measures effected in response to Covid-19, council in April relocated all vendors who operated vending stalls in the area and also permanently closed the popular weekend Khothama Market to bring order in the city beyond the lockdown period. However, some vendors were on Monday raided by municipal police after they had illegally returned to their former vending site along 5th Avenue.

The vendors under the banner "Bulawayo Upcoming Traders' Association (BUTA)", through their lawyers R Ndlovu and Company, filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo as respondents.

Minister July Moyo They said council used Covid-19 restrictions as an opportunity to unlawfully close their vending sites without notice despite paying monthly rentals. The vendors said they also contributed financially in the renovation and refurbishment of the vending sites.

They want an order directing council to reverse its decision of relocating them from their vending bays.

They want to carry on with their vending business, subject to compliance with the relaxed Covid-19 lockdown regulations in force as announced by the President on June 12.

In his founding affidavit, BUTA secretary-general Mr Dumisani Ncube said the closure of their vending site was unlawful. He said it was a unilateral decision by council yet they held operating licences and paid monthly rentals to the local authority.

"The first respondent (BCC)'s conduct in the circumstances is a violation of the applicant's members' right to lawful and fair administrative action under the provisions of section 3 (1) (a) of the Administrative Justice Act and under the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It is a violation of the provisions of section 199 (2) of the Urban Councils Act, which provides that a notice be served on affected members specifying the nature of the administrative action proposed and the grounds for the same," he said.

Mr Ncube said their operating licences, which were issued by BCC were still valid until December 31. He said by virtue of being vending licence holders and paying monthly rentals to council, they had a right to be given notice and be afforded a hearing before the decision was made to close the vending bays.

"The applicant's members thus have a clear right of access to the trading bays now that registered and licenced informal traders have been allowed to resume their business under the relaxed Covid-19 lockdown regulations," he said.

Mr Ncube said by failing to notify them of its decision to close and destroy their vending bays, the local authority denied the affected vendors an opportunity to exercise their right to appeal to the Administrative Court within the stipulated 28 days.

The vendors said the arbitrary closure amounts to compulsory deprivation of property in violation of the fundamental right to property enshrined in section 7 of the Constitution.

"The applicant is therefore compelled by the sequence of events, culminating in the events of Monday, 15 June 2020, to approach this honourable court on an urgent basis for relief by way of a provisional order interdicting the council from preventing or interfering with the rights of licenced members of the applicant to access their vending bays along 5th Avenue to resume trading," said Mr Ncube.

The respondents are yet to respond. BCC recently identified five new produce distribution hubs and new vending sites for 600 informal vendors who were affected by the closure of the 5th Avenue market place in the city centre.

The areas that had previously been used as vending sites, have since been reopened for vehicular movement and these include 8th Avenue between Josiah Tongogara Street and Robert Mugabe Way, the portion of 5th Avenue between Robert Mugabe Way and George Silundika Street, the portion of 5th Avenue between George Silundika Street and Fife Street, the portion of 5th Avenue between Fort Street and Herbert Chitepo Street and the portion of 5th Avenue between Herbert Chitepo Street and Lobengula Street.

Bulawayo has a total of 144 vending sites with a capacity of 15 353 vending bays located in the city's 29 wards.

Source - chronicle