Vending barons on the prowl in Bulawayo

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
Bulawayo has seen the emergence of vending barons who, in cahoots with council workers, demand US$1 in daily “protection fees” from desperate vendors for them not to be raided for illegally operating in the city centre. The vendors are allegedly being forced to pay the money to some people who claim to be politically connected.

Vendors selling

This comes as vendors have occupied various places across the city resulting in running battles with the municipal police who also confiscate their wares. It has since emerged that while in the public eye the municipal police are raiding all vendors, there are others who are deliberately left behind as they pay subscriptions to corrupt council officials so that they are not touched.

Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube and Permanent Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Bulawayo Mr Paul Nyoni are expected to hold a meeting with vendors today in a bid to clear them off the streets. In a snap survey yesterday vendors operating in the central business district said they pay US$1 each or $100 so that the council officials look the other way.

Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube

One of them, Mr Dominic Muparo said it is an open secret that vendors pay council officials so that they are not raided.

“While we get raided, others are not touched. I don’t know whether this is because of the relations they have with council employees. What is fair is that when we are being raided, all of us should be raided and when we pay all of us must pay,” he said.

“In some instances, there are those who will be wearing civilian clothing, they demand that we pay them US$1 or $100 per day but after 30 minutes we get raided by those who will be moving in a vehicle.”

Mr Muparo said vendors find it convenient to pay council officials as opposed to having their wares confiscated as this results in some of them failing to restock. Another vendor Mr Charles Sibanda said he also bribes council officials to secure freedom to continue illegally trading.

“What worries me is that even after paying we get raided again. But it is safer to pay because when you don’t pay you are guaranteed that when a raid is conducted you are also going to lose your items,” said Mr Sibanda.


Street Wise Informal Vendors Association director, Mr Percy Mcijo, said the association was aware of bribery allegations levelled against council officials.

“Yes, they have reported that the council security people who raid them demand R10, R20, US$1 and even the local currency so that they do not raid them,” he said.

“We have even taken the issue to city council management. What the management has said is that it has zero tolerance towards corruption. It has challenged vendors to bring evidence so that it can act on those people,” said Mr Mcijo.

He added that some people who claim political clout were shielding some illegal vendors from arrest.

“However, the issue of vending should be handled in a more holistic manner. These people are desperately trying to eke a living yet they get raided. We need to discuss how we can resolve this issue,” he said.

Vendors sell their wares along 8th Avenue in Bulawayo yesterday

Mr Dube said while corruption allegations have been levelled against council officials, no one has come forward to report any case.

“As we speak, people come out saying council officials are doing this. But when you request that they put it in writing or ask them to come forward and testify in any hearing they just disappear,” he said.

“If we have workers doing that, that is a criminal offence and we will need someone to testify but no one has come forward,” said Mr Dube.

He confirmed that some politicians have hamstrung council efforts in clearing the streets as they protect vendors from being raided.

“Yes, it’s true there is confusion and we are going to meet tomorrow (today) with vendors and their leaders together with the Permanent Secretary (Mr Paul Nyoni).

“We want to hear from their leaders how we can assist them otherwise they need to vacate those areas. We have vending bays and we cannot legalise something that is illegal otherwise we are going to turn this city into chaos,” he said.

Mr Nyoni said the local authority has approached Government to help deal with the illegal vendors’ menace.

“BCC has admitted that it has challenges dealing with vendors and has even sought the intervention of the police,” he said.

“But what the council has also highlighted is that there are individuals in various political parties that are involved in the protection of vendors. These people control several streets where vendors operate from,” said Mr Nyoni.

He said while Bulawayo Mayor councillor Solomon Mguni was quoted in the press saying vendors in the streets are protected by some party leaders in the ruling party, evidence on the ground suggest that this is done by individuals who name-drop political parties.

“These are criminal elements who take advantage of the party’s name. You might discover that the party’s chairman Cde Jabulani Sibanda has nothing to do with it,” said Mr Nyoni.

Cde Jabulani Sibanda

“There are also three of four people also using the names of other political parties, there are vendors who are aligned to the MDC, Mthwakazi among others but it is incorrect to claim that these political parties have vendors operating from the streets.

“There are individuals within these political parties who saw a gap and took advantage,” said Mr Nyoni.

He said the cat and mouse relationship between council and vendors is not sustainable and the municipality was working on a plan to relocate the vendors to designated vending bays.

Mr Nyoni blamed the delays in the reconstruction of Egodini Mall for worsening the vendors’ menace.

“The issue of vendors is partly caused by the delays in the completion of Egodini Mall. We have observed for several times where the contractor has been failing to complete the project,” he said.

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube

“We were initially told that the first phase of the project will be completed in April and when we reached April, we were told that the project will be completed in August and now in August we are told that it will be completed in December,” said Mr Nyoni.

He said the Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube in the coming days is expected to tour Egodini to assess the progress and get full appreciation of it. [email protected]

Article Source: The Chronicle

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