Mugabe to use the military to drive vendors off the streets

2015-06-02 17:01
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. (File, AFP)

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. (File, AFP)

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Harare - Zimbabwe's opposition will hold President Robert Mugabe responsible for any casualties incurred in a just-announced plan to use the military to drive tens of thousands of vendors off the streets of the country, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Tuesday.

"It is totally unfair for the corrupt and chaotic Zanu-PF regime to unleash the whole might of the military on innocent citizens struggling to eke out a living in the face of a crumbling and collapsing economy," Tsvangirai said in a statement. 

Mugabe's wife Grace in March voiced her support for vendors, whose numbers have ballooned in the last few months in the wake of a mounting firm closures and job losses. 

So there was consternation late on Monday when Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo appeared on state ZBC television to say vendors who sell their wares on the pavements had just seven days to "regularise their operations".

Chombo was backed by a brigadier-general from Mugabe's Joint Operations Command, which comprises chiefs of the army, air force, police, prisons and intelligence. 

Brigadier General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwa issued a warning to anyone "entertaining the idea of resisting" the move. 

But the main National Vendors' Union in Zimbabwe hit back on Tuesday with a vow to stay put, setting the stage for a confrontation.

Zimbabweans on Twitter were already talking of a fresh Operation Murambatsvina, a reference to the devastating slum clearance programme of 2005 which saw around 700 000 locals lose their homes or livelihoods.

'Murambatsvina' means "drive out the trash" and the operation was largely seen then as a clampdown on opposition strongholds.

"The army must refuse to be used against their brothers, sisters and even their wives and husbands who are trying to salvage an honest living from vending," Tsvangirai said.

"The MDC will hold Robert Mugabe and his regime to account for any casualties that might be suffered in the ill-conceived brutal plan," said the MDC leader, who still insists he was cheated of victory by the 91-year-old leader in presidential elections in 2002, 2008 and 2013.

Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  morgan ­tsvangirai  |  robert ­mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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