Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Owen Ncube has set the dreaded Joint Operations Command (JOC) units on vendors to forcefully move them from the Gweru central business district (CBD).
JOC is a military establishment accused of spearheading most post-independence State-sponsored atrocities and is made up of military, police, prison services and intelligence.
In an interview soon after meeting Health minister David Parirenyatwa on his second visit to the city on Friday in the wake of the typhoid outbreak, Ncube said the influx of vendors in the city centre was the major cause of the deadly disease.
“I gave vendors in town a 48-hour ultimatum to vacate the CBD until the typhoid outbreak situation has improved. I have, therefore, told the provincial JOC committee to intervene and move away vendors who will not have obeyed my ultimatum,” he said .
The development is yet another case of the heavy-handedness in which President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has showcased in dealing with civilian matters.
Previous efforts to evict the vendors from the CBD have turned violent, as some of them strongly resisted being moved away from their stalls.
Gweru town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza revealed that the salmonela virus that causes the disease had been detected in borehole water from Mkoba 15 suburb.
Gweru Vendors’ Association chairperson Lovemore Reketai told Southern Eye that they felt the minister was just using the typhoid outbreak as a scapegoat to politically persecute them following the crashing defeat of Zanu PF in the city during the July 30 elections.
“From what we gather, it is all about politics. Why are we now being chased away after the elections? The typhoid reason is a hoax,” Reketai said.
He said vendors needed to feed their families and removing them from their sources of livelihoods without creating alternative means for them was inhuman.
“Where do they want the vendors to raise money for their upkeep? It was going to be better had the minister given them an alternative place to sell their wares for a living,” he said.
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