By Jeffrey Moyo
Two months after longtime Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was replaced by his former deputy, vendors here have vowed to face the country's military head-on if the new government dares to unleash it on them to force them off the streets.
Last Friday, the government issued a 48-hour ultimatum for the country to vacate the streets where authorities accused them of operating at undesignated points.
Addressing journalists on Tuesday, Samuel Wadzai, director of the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET), said: "In the meantime, our message is that we're not going to leave the streets. Ultimatums and threats will only worsen the already precarious situation."
Wadzai accused the government of the southern African nation of fueling rights abuses through its heavy-handed treatment of vendors.
He blamed a "surge in the number of human rights abuses in the sector" on government refusal to abide by International Labor Organization directives on the formalization and regularization of the informal sector.
He said last year alone over 5,000 vendors countrywide had reported various forms of abuses at the hands of security forces ordering them to leave the areas they operated from in towns and cities.
Representing a membership of over 40,000 vendors countrywide, Wadzai said they would resist "by all means possible any efforts by police force or the military force to chase us from the streets".
Even more defiant were vendors like Millicent Chikukwa, 32, a single mother of two operating at the corner of Robert Mugabe Road and Sam Nujoma Street in capital Harare.
"Soldiers must come and shoot me. I will never leave the streets unless the government moves me from here to a job at some industry, because this is the only way I am feeding my children. I am the breadwinner and my bread is buttered on the streets," she told Anadolu Agency.
Banning vendors on the streets last week, Local Government Minister July Moyo said: "We are compelled to act before the situation degenerates to even lower levels. In view of this untenable situation, let us all declare war on illegal vendors.
"I have contacted Vice President General Chiwenga to seek his assistance so that security agencies can work with the municipalities, town councils, so that we can put to rest this menace that is facing us."