BULAWAYO street vendors have cried foul over what they term brutal raids by municipal police and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
But feeling the heat more are the elderly and disabled vendors who have not been spared the heavy handedness of the law enforcement agencies.
Plaxedes Moyo, an 87-year-old woman could not hold back her tears as she narrated how she had to survive and cater for her great grandchildren, while at the same time she was plagued by the constant raids.
“I wake up daily trying to provide for my grandchildren, but before I sell anything people will be all over running away from the municipal police who confiscate our produce,” she said.
At her age, Moyo said she had no hope of finding a job and this was compounded by the worsening economic situation in the country.
“I have been in the streets selling for over 20 years now and the school fees of all my children was paid using vending money. It is a pity because I unfortunately educated them to come and join me since there are no more industries in Bulawayo for them to work at,” she said.
“I sometimes become so weak and when I come to think that there is no better way to provide for the family besides going vending I give up. Humiliation by municipal police together with the ZRP compounds my woes.”
Vendors have expressed concern that the raids were unfair, considering that they could not find jobs.
The closure of industry and companies throughout the country has contributed to hordes of unemployed people and vending is increasingly becoming one of the few options.
A commuter omnibus driver, Clive Maphosa, said he felt pity for the vendors who fought running battles with the police and sometimes he had to shelter them to evade arrest.
“Vendors are harassed and brutally dispossessed of their goods during the raids conducted by the municipal police. Each and every day we see them here,” he said.
Mbongeni Makhaya, a vendor, said it seemed the local authority enjoyed seeing them suffer.
“This is daylight robbery by the authorities,” he said.
“How can we make a living besides selling on the streets since industries in Bulawayo are closed? Should we steal?”
Another vendor, Lindela Mkandla said: “The government should address the issue of small and medium enterprises as they were a backbone of the country’s economy.
“We are being harassed each and every day, whereas the government preaches indigenisation, but police raids continue to stifle our contributions.”
Bulawayo deputy mayor Gift Banda however, defended the raids, saying they would only stop when vendors followed the correct procedure of applying for licences.
“In as much as we understand that the economy is going down, as a council we have an obligation and a mandate to ensure there is no anarchy in this city,” he said.