HARARE – At least 17 percent of human rights violations in February and May were perpetrated by municipal police in cities controlled by the MDC, an opposition official has said.
MDC MP for Bulawayo South Eddie Cross, who is also the main opposition shadow minister for Local Government, accepted responsibility for part of the chaos blighting most local authorities as heavy-handed municipal police clash with informal traders.
This comes as most cities have been turned into war zones between vendors and municipal police, with the latter often attempting to impound goods sold from undesignated sites, resulting in injuries, arrests and loss of vending wares.
“How can you take tomatoes from a mother, working on the street, who has two children at home?” Cross questioned.
“I witnessed an incident where the city council raided vendors and I was ashamed. There was one woman who was beaten on the street. She was vending tomatoes and her tomatoes were taken.
“I brought her before council and I told them ‘listen to this woman’s story. How can you behave like this?’
“Seventeen percent of all the human rights abuses in this country in March and April were conducted by municipal police in the cities in which we control. That is unacceptable,” Cross said.
Cross added that he had instructed all MDC-run councils to have more engagement meetings with informal traders so as to come up with lasting solutions.
“I have instructed all urban councils without exception, that they may not introduce any measure that affects the informal sector without consultation . . . this is not optional, this is an instruction,” Cross said.
He, however, said in other areas MDC-run councils had met fierce resistance from Zanu PF officials.
“In Bulawayo, we had a situation on 3rd Avenue that has been sorted out with the help of vendor associations.
“When we went to sort out that situation and get some discipline, we faced fierce resistance from Zanu PF officials who have been allocating vending stands without any representation on the council . . . here we have a political party coming in and commandeering the area, and even bringing in people from outside Matabeleland and using them as a political Trojan horse.
“That is not acceptable. We don’t want to politicise this issue. We are dealing with people’s lives.
The renowned economist said Zimbabweans should not underestimate the power of informal trade.
“I estimate that the GDP of the informal sector in Zimbabwe is $17 billion a year. The bankers tell me that the cash circulating is more than$7 billion, the total cash in the banks is $5 billion.
“Now the total cash in the economy is $14 billion. It means Zimbabwe’s economy is predominantly informalised . . . and yet we treat cross-border traders at boarders like criminals although these people conduct 30 percent of Zimbabwe’s foreign trade.”