Political parties, Monday, traded accusations over the influx of illegal vendors in Bulawayo’s city centre with Zanu PF representatives disputing that its youths have taken over some of the streets and parcelled out vending bays.
The local authority has struggled to control illegal vending in the city centre with some suspected Zanu PF youths said to be now in charge of some areas like Fifth Avenue.
Speaking at a consultative meeting between the BCC and political parties held at the council chambers, Bulawayo Town Clerk, Christopher Dube, stated that “the city has become the dirtiest in Zimbabwe, while places like Harare and Gweru are now cleaner” than what was once the envy of other Southern African countries.
BCC Chamber Secretary, Sikhangele Zhou, said this engagement was necessary as the “situation obtaining on the ground was heavily polarised, as vendors would drop names of political parties each time BCC tried to enforce order.”
However, some opposition political parties said the ruling party had a hand in the chaos caused by illegal vendors.
Lwazi Khanye of the Mthwakazi Republic Party stated unequivocally that Zanu PF was deploying vendors in order to make them more economically sustainable, while Swithern Chirowodza of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) agreed “there was an avalanche of Zanu PF aligned vendors who name-dropped the ruling party because it controlled the levers of government.”
ZAPU’s Bekezela Ncube urged the council to enforce the bylaws because “the council did not destroy the country.”
Failure to act on illegal vendors would result in a public health disaster that would come back to bite the council, according to Ncube.
Zanu PF Provincial Spokesperson, Archibold Chiponda, denied the claims, saying if they were true, the ruling party would control Bulawayo because thousands of its purported supporters were vending.
“Let’s put an end to the narrative that we are the party responsible. I am Secretary for Information and have not given any information to Zanu PF to go and illegally occupy vendors,” he said, stating the ruling party was in support of BCC carrying out the operation.
The town clerk also did not mince his words when he highlighted another major challenge was vendors who came from other towns.
“These vendors are the most problematic because they don’t have accommodation but sleep there on Fife Avenue. They were first driven from Harare and kept moving to Kwekwe, Gweru now they are here,” Dube said.
“We don’t segregate in terms of language or where you come from but we don’t want imported lawlessness.”
The town clerk also stated the BCC was not a “national council” for everyone, but rather belonged to Bulawayo residents who were upset about the dirt.
As a result, Dube proposed that vending be ward-based, with people selling from their respective wards, due to the fact there were over 10 000 empty vending bays across Bulawayo.
“We are decentralising, you will sell from your wards and vending must be ward based. We are trying to protect you locals who are crying about outsiders. When we are giving out bays, we will look at where one is based and resident in Bulawayo. We can’t give anyone because we are a council for Bulawayo residents. We are not a national council,” said the town clerk who admitted to having sleepless nights over the deterioration of Bulawayo.
“Bulawayo City Centre is for formal business that is why we are saying get registered.”
Director of Town Planning, Wisdom Siziba, said the city centre only had 192 bays for prospective vendors to apply for at Dougmore, while there were a total of 10 193 empty bays across Bulawayo.
“Some of these bays are in the suburban areas where people live. We expect people to sell from there. Imagine if all of us were to descend at the CBD, it would be unbearable. As you close your eyes, think of the city you are in. Is this the Bulawayo you want to leave for future generations where there is so much congestion” he said.
According to Bulawayo Metropolitan MP, Nicola Watson, BCC has the authority to keep the city clean, thus they must enforce and uphold the city’s bylaws and eliminating illicit activity from the city was long overdue, she added.