VIOLENT clashes between marauding Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) and Zanu PF youths at the weekend left a trail of destruction at vending sites near Mupedzanhamo Complex, one of the busiest areas in Mbare, Harare.
The groups were fighting for control of the area where they charge and collect US$5 from each vendor.
Police confirmed the arrest of 13 people over the skirmishes.
The battles, the latest having started Saturday, have left many of the vendors fearing a gloomy year ahead as Zimbabwe gears for crunch 2023 general elections.
The usually overpopulated area was unrecognisable by its silence and emptiness, the few people who were visible were either peeping from mounds of rubble and broken tables or carefully passing by to avoid a beating by anti-riot police officers out in full force.
With little to no business since Saturday, one second hand shoes vendor said they now feared hunger could stalk them if the battles do not cease.
“This situation might persist up till after the 2023 elections, what this means is that we are going to go for the greater part of the next year battling to survive,” said the vendor who could not share his name.
“All I know is that youths from the CCC and Zanu PF are fighting, but do not have the details as to why they are doing so.”
Zimbabwe Republic Police’s (ZRP), though the area seemed peaceful when the NewZimbabwe.com crew arrived, was accused of indiscriminately beating residents of Harare’s oldest suburb whenever these incidences erupted.
“Their fights have, however, resulted in victims that have nothing to do with them as the police do not choose or ask when they descend on Mbare to stop the violence, they beat everyone,” said one vendor.
“The police just invade our stalls and start beating us. I am getting used to this, I am now used to being beaten by the police whenever the clashes start.
“I have a dislocated finger after l was hit with a baton stick on my forehead and have had a headache since Saturday. One of the officers stomped on my stomach with his boot and was beaten all over my body using their baton sticks.”
Two trucks full of anti-riot officers were strategically parked at corner Remembrance Drive and Roden Street. Another blocked traffic from accessing Mbare flats at the intersection of Remembrance Drive and Cripps Road.
Police barricaded the road with broken tables and stones which had been used during the running battles, while others patrolled the area.
Vendors have ‘historically’ but ‘illegally’ been charged between US$3 and US$5 per day for use of stalls (tables) by both Zanu PF and CCC and the battle for control of the space in question seems to have reached a crescendo.
They have resulted in the permanent closure of Mupedzanhamo Flea Market, a popular spot for second hand clothes and shoes, as none between the two allows the other to take control of it, besides being council property.
Council has failed over past years to effect order and reclaim its property.
“The youths are fighting for vending stalls (tables) littered around the Mupedzanhamo and within the flats,” said another.
“These battles started when CCC youths set up tables around the Zanu PF district offices near Block 1, the Zanu PF youths then demanded that they be pulled down but that was resisted.
“Zanu PF youths then began to target vending stalls from which CCC youths were collecting US$3 per day. They burnt them overnight and started these battles which have stopped all business here.”
Though Mbare remains an opposition stronghold, Zanu PF has been equally powerful in determining who gets what, where in relation to space.