…Minister distances self from rowdy party youths
Mutare-Battle for control of council-run Chidzere flea markets in the Central Business District (CBD) by political activists has intensified, with Zanu PF youths recently invading the market armed with a letter purportedly from Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution’s office.
Lucky Bhasopo, the Director in the office of the Minister of State and Provincial Affairs and Devolution said he was not aware of the letter as he was on leave the whole of this week, referring questions to Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere.
“I am not very sure since I am on leave the whole of this week. What I can confirm is that we agreed with council that they were going to give the youth 160 stalls in the market. I only received a call from the Dispol telling me that they had arrested some youths who were saying they had a letter from our office and had allocated themselves tables in the market.
“You can clarify with either the secretaries or the Minister herself. The youths said they were afraid the tables will be finished, that is why they went there and allocated them amongst themselves,” Bhasopo said.
Contacted for comment, Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere confirmed writing the letter soon after the 2020 youth demonstration asking council to allocate some of the stalls in the market to them so they could find something to do, saying she was unaware that some youths had used that letter to go and invade the market.
“We wrote the letter sometime last year before the suspension of some of the previous management, and now that it has changed we are currently waiting for a council resolution on that letter. I have not received any report of the youths who went to allocate themselves market stalls in the market stalls,” Matsikenyeri said.
Mutare Mayor Cllr Blessing Tandi said the market was initially controlled by the ruling party, but its reopening was being delayed due to political polarization as Zanu PF is demanding the lion’s share in stall allocation.
“We have 660 tables in the market and we received a letter from the Minister of State demanding an allocation of 160 out of the remaining tables. 240 tables are already occupied by those who were already there before its closure, and now we receive a political letter which is going to give us challenges in the allocation of the tables.
“We have about 690 applications so far and our challenge is that some people want to have the lion’s share while we have a limited number of stalls and that is delaying the reopening of the market,” Tandi said.
Tandi said council was agreeing with Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA) which had over 500 members on the waiting list, saying everyone must follow the right procedure and apply using the formal channels.
“MITA is our major stakeholder and we are agreeing with them that those who want tables must apply the right way and not just demand for a lion’s share. We have that challenge and I am going to include it in the state of the city address,” Tandi said.
There are reports that some activists from opposition parties are fuming over the alleged agreement between council and Zanu PF over the allocation of 20 percent of market stalls to the latter, also demanding the same for their members.
MITA president Itai Kariparire told TellZim News that the flea market situation had reached boiling point, saying he received anonymous calls from different people threatening his life and his family.
“As MITA we are against any political interference in the running of the market. We are not interested in asking or interviewing any political party but we are fighting the local authority to adhere to Informal Traders Act as by the constitution.
“I have received anonymous calls threating my life and that of my family because I have been labeled a stumbling block for interested political players to get tables at Chidzere. My message remain the same I am not afraid of the threats as I will stand for the rights of informal traders,” said Kariparire.
Kariparire further said MITA would probe the courts to help Mutare City Council interpret the Informal Traders Act, as it seems the local authority has forgotten it.
Brilliant Mpofu, MITA spokesperson said Mutare City Council should follow standard procedure in stalls allocation as they were now drawing informal traders into political battles they had no business in.
“Mutare City Council has not come out clean in terms of allocation of tables in the market. We have over 500 of our members on the waiting list, who followed proper application procedure and we expect everyone to do the same,” Mpofu said.
A full council meeting held on October 2, 2021 recommended that vendor stalls at Chidzere be divided into 50 tables among three political parties to address polarizations in controlling the market, with the local authority maintaining that anyone interested in trading must apply to the housing department.