Illegal roadside business structures a health hazard!

By Rutendo Jiri

The past week has seen Harare City Council under the directive of the Provincial Development Coordinator for Harare Metropolitan Province, Mr. Tafadzwa Muguti engage the assistance of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to demolish illegal roadside business structures in Harare.

So far, City Council has successfully demolished illegal structures in Mbare, Chitungwiza and the Mbudzi round-about area.

While demolitions are progressing in accordance of City planning regulations, the MDC Alliance Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) leader Jacob Ngarivhume and Samuel Wadzai of the Vendors Initiative for Social Economic Transformation (VISET) have converged to whip citizen’s emotions to resist the noble developments. 

The Bulawayo24 yesterday quoted MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa inciting citizens to rise against Government over these developments.

“They don’t even make effort to create jobs and when people try to survive peacefully and patriotically, they do after them. It’s cruel, heartless, irresponsible and incapable leadership. Central government is inflicting terror on the people while putting on the mask of city council. We can get angry and condemn this, but the issue is it is now time for people’s convergence to end all this. It is no longer about political parties when our humanity and dignity is under attack. People can’t wait for any other signal…,” he said.

In the same story, VISET leader Samuel Wadzai held Muguti personally responsible for the demolitions.

“We condemn the brutality witnessed in Mbare. We continue to see violation of our right to survive and we will challenge this using all lawful means. A number of our members were affected and we witnessed looting of our merchandise and Tafadzwa Muguti, Harare Development Co-ordinator should be held personally responsible for what is happening”, he said.

While the plight of informal traders who rely on vending in the open is genuine, the City’s development plans cannot be side-swayed for illegal activity to continue unchecked.

The majority of informal traders are lamenting that the City council should have given them time to comply with the council directive to remove their illegal road-side structures before they were bulldozed to the ground- but it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to discern that people were hoping for a court order to stop demolition of the structures.

However, Government officials are adamant there was widespread publicity of the impending demolitions.

A Government official who spoke to this publication on anonymity said that vendors and road-side business owners had been warned that City council that demolitions would take effect by June 7, 2021

What most ill- informed people don’t know is that the demolitions are not being done under the planning or licensing laws, but under the Roads Act which prohibits all structures built on land demarcated as a road reserve and so it is an offence to block part of a road as such there can be no legal comeback for those told to move.

Over the last 5 years, the traffic on Zimbabwe’s roads has greatly increased and our roads can no longer sustain the increased traffic.

The call for the demolition of road-side structures should be appreciated as preparations for the impending road rehabilitation and expansion exercise.

Apart from the need to abide to the Road Act, the sprouting of illegal road-side businesses poses a greater risk for citizens to contract the deadly corona virus which has recently surged.

The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Constantino Chiwenga a few weeks ago announced new Covid-19 lockdown regulations to curb the outbreaks reported in towns like Chinhoyi, Karoi and Kariba among others.

As of June 20, 2021, Zimbabwe has 41, 799 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1, 672 deaths.

In the midst of a national lockdown, most informal traders especially those in Mbare could be seen conducting business as usual further exposing themselves, their families and their customers to Covid-19.

The demolitions are therefore timeous and necessary to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and pave way for the expansion of road rehabilitation and construction projects.