BCC defers crackdown on illegal vendors

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) was forced to postpone its crackdown on illegal vendors in the city centre on Wednesday after police said they were not prepared to handle the magnitude of the exercise. 

This was revealed by Bulawayo Chamber Secretary, Sikhangele Zhou, during a consultative meeting with the business community, who stated that the police advised BCC to wait for the outcome of a security meeting held at the office of the Minister of Provincial and Devolution Affairs. 

The consultative meeting was supposed to be chaired by Bulawayo Town Clerk, Christopher Dube but Zhou said Dube and Director of Town Planning, Wisdom Siziba, were attending the security meeting at the provincial minister’s office. 

“We are trying to find a way to bring back sanity in the city. We know there are many issues with the business community but we are asking that for today, can we put our heads together about the unlawful activities that are happening in our streets and also how to keep the city clean,” she said. 

The chamber secretary acknowledged there was an anticipation of extensive enforcement around the city as the BCC took action against illegal vendors, but there was some disagreement over how to proceed. 

“Since we all live here, there was a lot of polarisation around enforcement. There were others who were preparing this and that which is why the security sector meeting was called today at 10am. While we try to correct the wrong, maybe let’s not ignite what happened before,” she said, highlighting sentiments that their crackdown sounded like Operation Murambatsvina. 

Operation Murambatsvina, also officially known as Operation Restore Order, was a large-scale Zimbabwean government campaign in 2005 to forcibly clear slum areas across the country. 

Zhou admitted that the BCC considered the possibility that their enforcement exercise, “if not well thought out, may not work to the desired result.” 

“We did as a city, as per the notice, say we were ready to start enforcement today. However, when we contacted our counterparts, in the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) yesterday (Tuesday), they thought it was wise to wait for today’s meeting, so that the whole security sector will make a proper way forward and enforce without putting anything in danger,” said the chamber secretary. 

“So that’s why we were not there (on the streets) in the morning but we were ready to. But unfortunately, in terms of our operations and our powers, the city municipal police have no arresting powers. It has to work hand in hand with the ZRP. When we arrest offenders on the street to enforce our bylaws, we hand them over to the ZRP.” 

The chamber secretary pointed out that if police had said, “We’re not ready for such a massive action, let’s wait for something,” it would have been “foolhardy” for the BCC to proceed. 

“It’s not that the city is reneging on its promise to restore sanity today, we have not. We are still ready,” she said, adding that as soon as the rest of the security sector which lends support to BCC for the exercise gives the go-ahead, the council would be ready to enforce the bylaws.  

According to Zhou, the business sector should be interested in the consultative meeting because the council would carry out enforcement in front of their premises. 

“In the event that maybe there is violence and all sorts of things, it will definitely affect your businesses. So, you are an important stakeholder to us,” she said. 

The local authority also held consultative meetings with informal traders, bus operators and political parties.

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