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BCC officers, vendors hurt in dawn market raid

by Staff reporter
24 Feb 2023 at 07:03hrs | Views
BULAWAYO City Council fired rubber bullets and used a fire engine to spray vendors with water after launching an operation to clear 5th Avenue of illegal activities in the early hours of yesterday, a move that has been backed by vendors' associations.

Three municipal police officers and an unconfirmed number of vendors were injured during the operation.

Vendors' associations say some of those operating from 5th Avenue are selling drugs and the space has barons who are being paid US$1 daily by each unregistered vendor for the illegal activities to continue. Council launched the operation on the same day that the Minister of Local Government and Public Works July Moyo directed local authorities to enforce traffic regulations and by laws in the country's cities and towns.

In a statement, the Minister said local authorities must address challenges of obstruction of traffic, among others by enlisting the help of the police.

Following yesterday's events, police said they had received a report on the shooting incident and investigations were underway. Council's corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the early morning raid was part of council's mandate to enforce by-laws.

"We are urging all informal traders to trade from designated sites. The enforcement targets all unruly elements in the city. Some of these occur outside business hours which include informal traders of no fixed abode who live on the streets and sleep there. They also block roads making them impassable," said Mrs Mpofu.

"They further compromise the sanitation of the city as they don't have access to toilets and ablution facilities because they are operating from undesignated sites."

She said during the impasse, three council employees were injured as disgruntled vendors retaliated by throwing stones at municipal police.

"We are however yet to receive any reports of illegal informal traders who were injured. The City of Bulawayo gives licences to vendors operating from official vending sites and bays. Our licences bear the vending site and bay numbers and so far there are no licences 5th Avenue vending site," she said.

Mrs Mpofu said vendors must trade at designated sites, adding that one such site in Nkulumane suburb which is under construction is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

"The market will ease congestion in the city centre which is usually flooded by fruit and vegetable producers on a daily basis," she said

It was business as usual later in the afternoon as vendors returned to their bays

She said the market is expected to improve the livelihoods of the community as a number of people will be employed in various market activities.

"Members of the public are advised that 5th Avenue is a public road for vehicular and pedestrian traffic and not a designated vending site. We urge all informal traders to trade from designated sites. Informal trading has to co-exist harmoniously with residents and other sectors in the City of Bulawayo and also operate within the confines of City policies, By-Laws and National laws. We also appeal to the members of the public to purchase from designated informal traders," added Mrs Mpofu.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said municipal police faced resistance from about 800 vendors in the wee hours of the day while trying to confiscate vending tables from those illegally trading along 5th Avenue between Lobengula Street and Jason Moyo Streets.

"As municipal police were raiding tables and wares from illegal vendors, they faced resistance from about 800 vendors who had already started operating at the market. An altercation arose and a fire engine was called to spray water as a means to disburse the crowds but they failed. One of the municipal policemen fired rubber bullets at the vendors injuring them in the process and a report was then made to us," said Insp Ncube.

He said around 7AM, one of the vendors reported a shooting incident at Bulawayo Central Police.

Insp Ncube said the injured vendors whose number still cannot be confirmed and three council workers were rushed to United Bulawayo Hospitals for medical attention.

"Anti-riot police also attended the scene to restore order and that is how the impasse ended. We also understand that 500 of the vendors marched to the city hall and demanded to be addressed by the mayor after the incident," he said.

Insp Ncube said investigations were underway and urged residents to remain peaceful.

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association Executive Director Mr Michael Ndiweni said illegal vendors were to blame for the disorder and the health hazards looming within the city centre.

"We woke up to calls that BCC was raiding unlicensed informal traders in the wee hours of today, and we heard reports that some informal traders were injured," said Mr Ndiweni.

"At the centre of this whole issue is a serious issue of space barons who appear to be a law unto themselves. They have caused and are at the centre of all this mess, selling of drugs, illicit alcohol, duping innocent women and men who are informal traders by promising them protection through collecting a USD1 a day and they are literally benefiting from the money."

He said it is very unfortunate that unlicensed vendors expect residents and council to clean the waste they generate during their illegal trading activities.

"Mind you not even a cent goes to council coffers, surely a genuine informal trader would not condone such, it makes it very hard for genuine informal traders to demand services. It's sad that when informal traders are at the mercy of authorities, these cartels disappear and reappear after raids asking people to go back to those contested sites who are likely to face the raids again. There is a need for stakeholders to come together and address this issue," added Mr Ndiweni.

Source - The Chronicle