Zimbabwe police Sunday clashed with vendors who were resisting being removed from streets as part of the country’s efforts to fight the cholera outbreak, which has claimed more than two dozen lives in the past two weeks.
Vendors were alerting each other of armed riot police and municipality officials coming to confiscate their wares Sunday in Harare. As soon as police officials left, the vendors would resume their business.
One of them is 34-year-old Maria Mange, a mother who three children who says unless she gets employed, she will remain selling vegetables and fruits in Harare’s CBD.
“I am refusing to leave the streets on the basis that we cause the spread of cholera,” she said. “Our wares are cleaned or boiled before being consumed. It is dirty water which causes cholera, their failure to collect refuse, plus flowing sewage in the streets and blocked sewer pipes. Why concentrate on vendors and not criminals?”
Another vendor is Ronald Takura who says he has to find a way to make a livliehood.
“No, vendors are not causing the cholera. You are disturbing [our] search for money in our country,” he said. “I do not have a job and I do not have work to do. So do not send us out. I do not understand what is happening in this city. E.D. Mnangagwa, we supported, we do not see what he is doing for us.”
He adds in Shona language, Zimbabweans voted for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the July 30th elections, but he is not supporting the vendors.
But Zimbabwe’s minister of health, Obediah Moyo, says there is no going back.
“The issue of food vending is another issue, we all agreed that has to stop, especially in the area of epicenter [of the epidemic], that the police are helping us to stop the vending of food,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak has since spread to several parts of the country from its epicenter in Harare’s densely populated suburbs.
International organizations such as UNICEF, WHO, and MSF have since moved in with assistance. But critics say the long-term solution is improving water supply, sanitation and regular waste collection by Zimbabwean authorities.
A cholera outbreak is the second since a 2008-09 epidemic claimed almost 5,000 lives.