January 20, 2018 / 2:58 PM / a month ago

Zimbabwe tells illegal vendors to quit Harare streets, may use army to clear them

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has given illegal vendors and pirate taxis 48 hours to leave Harare’s streets, failing which it will forcibly remove them with the military’s help, a cabinet minister said, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks to restore order in cities.

Once prided as the “sunshine city” of the southern African nation, Harare is home to thousands of hawkers who sell everything from fruits, roasted food and clothes on pavements, which authorities say causes a health hazard.

July Moyock, minister of local government, was quoted by the official Herald newspaper saying he spoke to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, a retired general, “to seek his assistance so that security agencies can work with the municipalities” to end the illegal activities.

“You are directed to cease forthwith your activities within the next 48 hours, failure of which you have no one but yourselves to blame,” Moyo said, referring to illegal vendors and unregistered taxis.

Army spokesman Colonel Overson Mugwisi said he could not immediately comment, while Chiwenga was unreachable for comment.

The military, under Chiwenga’s command, in November staged a defacto coup that it dubbed “Operation Restore Legacy”, which forced former president Robert Mugabe to resign and paved the way for the rise of Mnangagwa.

Under Mugabe’s 37-year rule, the rate of unemployment rose to more than 80 percent, forcing many people to eke out a living by hawking on the streets.

With the unpopular police under orders not to harass citizens, pirate taxis have taken advantage and daily flout traffic regulations and endanger other road users. Moyo said pirate taxis had turned Harare into a “hazardous jungle.”

In the midst of the rainy season, the local authority fears that illegal vending of food and fruits could lead to an outbreak of cholera. Four people died this week from cholera in Chegutu town, 100 km (62 miles) west of Harare.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by William Maclean

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