Felex Share Senior Reporter
MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday came out inciting lawlessness in most urban centres after he urged illegal street vendors to ignore a seven-day Government ultimatum for them to stop selling their wares from undesignated points in cities and towns.
Analysts and urban planners immediately criticised Mr Tsvangirai for promoting anarchy in a bid to boost his waning political fortunes.
He also put his beleaguered party on a collision course with security agencies who have been tasked to assist councils in enforcing the seven-day ultimatum for street vendors which ends on Sunday.
Mr Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare that the directive by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, Dr Ignatius Chombo, was unconstitutional as local authorities had “the right and powers” to govern the affairs of people in their areas.
This, observers said, was a sign that Mr Tsvangirai lacked rudimentary understanding of the law as Government had a role to supervise all local authorities.
“Local authorities are urged to reject any unconstitutional directives issued by the Zanu-PF regime,” said Mr Tsvangirai.
“The MDC would like to strongly warn the Zanu-PF regime to exercise restraint and to be wary of a restive and hungry population.”
Mr Tsvangirai added: “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 under the prevailing difficult circumstances. The MDC will hold Robert Mugabe and his regime to account for any casualties that might be suffered in the ill-conceived brutal plan.”
Dr Chombo said the one week ultimatum ends on Sunday after which law enforcement agents would descend on those who ignored the order to stop their illegal activities.
Vending has become an eyesore in most urban areas with market stalls mushrooming overnight on streets.
Mr Tsvangirai’s challenge goes against calls by Members of Parliament, including MDC-T MPs who have demanded an immediate end to vending in the CBD.
Legislators from across the political divide recently said vendors had become a menace and that they threatened properly-registered retail shops that paid taxes to government.
Urban planning expert, Mr Nyasha Mutsindikwa, said Mr Tsvangirai was promoting anarchy while hiding behind a wrong interpretation of the law.
“The law stipulates that if a local authority has a problem, the Government has a right to intervene to deal with that problem,” he said.
“(Dr) Chombo therefore was speaking on behalf of Government and there is no violation of the Constitution here. Illegal vendors should simply be removed and go to designated places, not to continue to compete with people paying rentals.”
Political analyst, Mr Alexander Rusero, said Mr Tsvangirai had hijacked the issue of vendors with a view to reviving his waning political fortunes.
“Brother Tsvangirai might be exercising his democratic right but with every corner of the world portraying him as a loser, it leaves people with the conclusion that he is trying to bring back lost mojo,” he said.
“Whatever his utterances, actions or reactions, people should bear in mind that he is a man desperate for relevance.” Mr Rusero said it was surprising that Mr Tsvangirai was celebrating disorder in towns.
“He wants to blow this thing out of proportion to portray Government as anti-people,” he said.
Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planning president Mr Percy Toriro, said contrary to Mr Tsvangirai’s assertions, Government had a duty to supervise local authorities.
He, however, said the vending issue required “sober and careful management”.
“Whilst people and Government understand the need to accommodate vendors, we must accept that there is a limit to anything,” he said.
“Not everyone who wants to be a vendor can be accommodated. In strategic spaces such as the CBD, there are a variety of interests that authorities must protect, including the vendors, but also formal rate-paying businesses, the shopping public, office users and others who come there to transact.
“It is in that context that we must consider all people’s rights to the urban space, and not just vendors.