The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
GAINS made from the recently concluded Bulawayo City Council Spring Cleaning exercise could be quickly reversed as authorities continue to struggle to bring sanity along 5th Avenue where illegal vendors have turned the entire street into their haven.
The Central Business District (CBD) Spring-Cleaning exercise was meant to get rid of piling garbage in the city’s sanitary lanes. The 5th Avenue vegetable market, from Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street up to Robert Mugabe Way was also a bone of contention during the exercise as it was identified as one of the red zones.
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the local authority introduced a raft or measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic, these also notably included the order to shut down the open-air market along 5th Avenue. The local authority even declared that the road will now be opened to the motoring public.
However, two years after that directive, vendors seem to be winning the battle against the local authority and, if anything, they have since increased their operations as they have closed off the entire road, barring any vehicles from driving through the area or even finding any parking bay. The road is chaotic, with push carts and vendors displaying wares on the streets while others are in long queues to buy vegetables from the fresh produce shops.
A visit to the area shows that it has been turned into a mini market where one can get anything from vegetables, to cooked food stuffs, groceries, even second-hand clothes are now being sold along the street, with some even displaying their merchandise from car boots. To make matters worse there is little concern for hygiene thereby exposing the public to a health hazard, while others sell illegal alcoholic beverages and dangerous drugs such as marijuana.
According to a report that was compiled after an all stakeholders meeting that was held between vendors’ association, the local authority and the office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Judith Ncube it was noted that despite the site having closed for vending there was now indeed an influx of illegal vendors.
The meeting further noted that licensed vendors who had been displaced no longer have any space to do business because of these new and overnight vendors.
“It was noted with concern that the site was closed for vending, but the illegal vendors decided to work from there without paying to city council, there was violation of Covid-19 protocols and they were also violating by-laws through the selling of drugs, beer and other unauthorised items. There was dirt all over the site, by using service lanes as bathrooms and toilets and trucks with produce just stop and start selling (direct) to customers instead of ordering (wholesaling) and go,” reads part of the report.
The meeting further noted that there was an urgent demand of enforcement against the illegal vendors.
“As part of recommendations it was resolved that 5th Avenue be reopened for vending bays and have some parking bays on the other side with the allocation of bays to be done in consideration of the traders who were there, with licences, before the closure of vending along the street.
“There was also a need for vendors to join vendors associations. There was a need to have a time line from the city council of dividing 5th Avenue, to have vending bays and parking bays for customers and all the illegal vendors to be removed immediately,” reads the report.
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni attributed the chaos to an issue of enforcement of the city’s by-laws.
“There is no council policy on vending on a public motorway. It’s a question of enforcement of the relevant by-laws. Kindly contact the Acting Town Clerk, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, who is also the chamber secretary in that regard, she is responsible for enforcement of council by-laws and statutory enactments,” said Clr Mguni.
Ward one councillor who is also the city’s Deputy Mayor, Clr Mlandu Ncube said through their engagement with the illegal vendors operating along 5th Avenue some had revealed that they were part of those that had been moved to pave way for the rehabilitation of Egodini Bus Terminus. He said they were now closely monitoring the Egodini Project to ensure that it meets its set timelines and phase 1A of the project is handed over to council. Phase 1A includes the construction of 1 100 vending stalls and 110 taxi bays.
“As a city we are trying all our best to address this chaos along 5th Avenue. These people tell us they were removed from Egodini, so as you see the vending shades at Egodini are now at an advanced stage and we have the full register of people who were removed there to pave way for the rehabilitation works. We will therefore be giving first preference to those that were removed, to go back to their previous trading areas. Once we successfully return them to Egodini, around November, we will use every means and every force to remove anyone found on undesignated vending sites in the CBD,” said Clr Ncube.