Riot police, water cannons out in force in Harare

HARARE – On Thursday, water cannons and riot police were out in force at the start of an operation to clear illegal street vendors from Harare, witnesses said.

The clean-up, dubbed Operation Restore Order, comes just days after President Robert Mugabe ordered Harare’s streets to be cleared of the vendors.

Witnesses said that traders who were evicted by police early on Thursday soon returned to their positions.

Police said vendors outside a supermarket in Harare Street had been ordered to vacate earlier on Thursday, but had trickled back an hour later. At the time, there were no immediate or violent clashes.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project also tweeted pictures of two of the riot police’s large silver water cannons parked near the city centre, indicating that the authorities are ready for trouble.

On Wednesday, the minister in charge of Harare Metropolitan Province, Miriam Chikukwa ordered illegal vendors and taxi operators to leave central Harare “with immediate effect”, according to state media.

The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation also said that it had been informed that similar operations were taking place in towns and cities across the country, though that claim could not be verified immediately.

This decision to remove vendors was called “acts of barbarism” by the group.

The group accused the city council of failing to provide adequate alternative trading sited for street traders.

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