Riot police are reported to be protecting the premises of Chitungwiza’s municipality from angry flea market vendors whose stalls were demolished in a clampdown that started last week. The heavily equipped riot squad was deployed Wednesday morning after a truckload of people, suspected to be the flea market vendors, drove by the offices chanting intimidating slogans aimed at the town clerk Godfrey Tanyanyiwa.
The vendors assaulted the Mayor and several senior council members soon after the demolitions last week Tuesday. It was feared that they were planning another attack and officials were moved to vacate the municipal buildings and send the workers home.
Personal bodyguards are reported to have been hired for the town clerk Tanyanyiwa after last week’s incident. This has further strained relations between top officials and municipal workers because the municipality is short of money and many workers are complaining that they have not been paid.
Simbarashe Moyo, chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), compared last week’s demolitions to “Operation Murambatsvina”, when nearly one million innocent Zimbabweans were displaced after the government bulldozed their homes and businesses back in 2005.
The Chitungwiza council said that the stalls had been erected at undesignated sites but Moyo explained: “These people were trying to find home grown solutions to the problem of unemployment, which is over 90%, without resorting to any illegal means. Their property was destroyed and they were left with no option.”
Moyo said the Chitungwiza council had set aside land for the purpose of establishing a flea market so that they could collect some revenue, but had not built anything there. “The vendors could not be expected to wait while their families starved. It was an organized response to a crisis. You can understand their anger,” he added.
Chitungwiza Mayor Philemon Chipiyo told the press on Wednesday that he had been out of the office and did not know enough about the current situation to comment. He is quoted as saying he “wouldn’t want to engage in gossip” and he referred reporters to the town clerk.
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