Soldiers on Friday night allegedly destroyed vending sites across Harare, as reports of the military brutalising residents in the capital following the July 30 disputed presidential elections mounted.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The uniformed soldiers destroyed market stalls in popular areas such as Copacabana, Fourth Street, Rezende Street and at Market Square bus terminuses.
By midday yesterday, the streets of Harare had been cleared of vendor stalls, whose debris was being removed off the streets by municipal workers after having been reportedly pulled down by soldiers on Friday night.
Our reporters yesterday saw council bulldozers around Copacabana bus terminus busy clearing off vendor stalls under the watchful eye of armed police.
Asked to comment on the operation, City of Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme said: “It has always been our vision and desire to decongest the city of illegal vendors so that our capital city could breathe again.”
National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe leader Sten Zvorwadza, who organised a meeting between vendors and Zanu PF top leadership just before elections and appeared to side with the ruling party, yesterday said he was “out of touch with the happenings on the ground”.
“I will need to understand if it is true that what you are saying indeed happened and who did it, why they did it and for what reason. At the moment, I will reserve my comment on the matter,” Zvorwadza said.
But the Vendors’ Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) confirmed receiving reports that elements from the military on Friday night raided vendors’ markets and destroyed their stalls.
“It is illegal what they did and we are going to take them through a legal process. We are peace-loving people and we will always be guided by the law,” Viset director Samuel Wadzai said.
“It is illegal what they are doing and they must show, indeed, that they are open for business, as their government is saying, not these callous acts.”
MDC Alliance chairperson Morgen Komichi blamed President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF for the destruction of vendors’ stalls and alleged beatings by soldiers.
“He (Mnangagwa) is giving an order to soldiers to beat up people and then he goes to the Press to pretend as if he was not aware of it,” Komichi said.
“He is trying to give us the impression that there are two command lines, but as far as we are concerned, it is the president who deployed soldiers on peaceful demonstrators. He should be honest.”
Meanwhile, many Harare residents have claimed that they were beaten up by soldiers at night in the aftermath of the Wednesday protests which ended in bloodshed.
After initial reports of soldiers beating up revellers in Chitungwiza on Thursday night, the raids were reported in Kuwadzana, Glen View, Highfield and Warren Park the following day.
On Friday, Alpha Media Holdings journalist Tinotenda Samkange was detained by soldiers for three hours after he tried to record images of them beating up residents.
During his detention, he was warned against taking pictures of the army during its operation.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe condemned Samkange’s detention and expressed concern over the army’s activities.
“MISA Zimbabwe notes that this is the fifth violation since Wednesday 1 August 2018,” Misa said in a statement.
“We, therefore, call upon the government of Zimbabwe to stop the attacks on the media as journalists carry out their constitutionally guaranteed duties.
“The media should be accorded unfettered access to events across the length and breadth of the country as they unfold, in line with the laws of Zimbabwe.”
However, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba last night insisted there were no soldiers deployed on the streets of Harare or anywhere else.
Mnangagwa last week said he did not know what was happening as regards deployment of the army onto the streets of the capital and promised to set up a commission of inquiry comprising local and foreign members to investigate the army shootings.
Mnangagwa also deplored the move by the police who stormed a hotel where MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was due to address a Press conference on Friday and ordered journalists off the venue.
Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo saved the day, stopping the police in their tracks and allowing the presser to continue.
Meanwhile, Charamba said the police were keen to interview Silas Jakakimba, a Kenyan national, in connection with the disturbances which occurred in Harare on Wednesday.
She said members of the public with information about his whereabouts should contact CID Law and Order.
“The ZRP is appealing to all members of the public to remain peaceful and calm. May we all, therefore, observe the tenets of peace and unity,” Charamba said.