Cape Town – The National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) has given President Robert Mugabe a two-week ultimatum to stop police brutality, while warning that his failure to do so will lead to retaliation.
In an interview with News24, NAVUZ chairperson Sten Zvorwadza accused the police of indiscriminately dishing out violence against the vendors.
Zvorwadza said that the vendors had had enough of police brutality and that they were gearing to fight against "rowdy officers" whom he claimed were committing crime in "day broad light".
Said Zvorwadza: "We're not going anywhere. We're proud working citizens. They are wasting their time in trying to remove us. We're going to fight back if Mugabe fails to call his subordinates into order. We are giving him only two weeks to respond to our grievance."
Zvorwadza's remarks came less than a month after the Zimbabwean police launched a campaign to clear the Harare's streets of "illegal" vendors. This was after Mugabe complained that roads in central Harare, including the one named after him, were dirty and overcrowded with illegal street traders who block traffic.
'We're going to fight back'
A short video posted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum showed helmeted riot police on the back of an armoured troop carrier parked in Robert Mugabe Road, while vendors apparently packed their wares.
"The ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] are confiscating our goods for personal gain. We have been complaining about this issue to the Home Affairs department but no one is listening. So Mugabe must tell us if he has given the police the go ahead to harass hard working citizens. If he says he is the one who has given them [police] the right to confiscate and harass street vendors, then we're going to know what type of a man he is," Zvorwadza said.
Zvorwadza maintained that it was not against the law to chase away the police "when they (police) acted against the prescripts of the law".
"We're going to fight back. We are going to effect a citizens arrest if the police attack innocent people who are trying to make a living. The police are acting violently against defenceless people and the only way to protect each other is to take their batons and fight back," said Zvorwadza.
'A dead man walking'
Zvorwadza was arrested in October after saying that Mugabe "a dead man walking". He said at the time that the nonagenarian was "daydreaming" as he had failed to come up with fresh ideas to rejuvenate the country's economy.
He was charged with insulting or undermining the president.
Zvorwadza was yet to appear in court.
Zimbabwe's worsening economy has seen many people resorting to informal street vending due to massive unemployment.