A ruling Zanu PF-linked group on Saturday shut down informal markets in Ruwa and forced vendors into a bus that took them to a presidential star rally in Mutawatawa, Mashonaland East province, some 200km away.
Ruwa is a dormitory town situated 33 kilometres east of Harare and lies on the boundaries of the capital and Mashonaland East province,
The rally whose star attraction is President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu PF presidential candidate at the 23 August elections, reportedly attracted more than 124,000 attendants.
Typical of the star rallies, thousands of people are being bussed to the venues.
When NewsHub visited the shopping centre early morning on Saturday, the usually vibrant Ruwa vegetable market at the George mall was deserted and the gates closed.
Horticulture producers who make daily deliveries to the market were left stranded as their usual customer had been forced to go for the rally.
The recently established used clothes market was also desolate.
Only a handful vendors could be seen clandestinely selling their goods in the parking lot in front of the green market.
One of the vendors who spoke on condition of anonymity said she had no option but to sell in the parking lot.
She said she hid in a nearby shop to evade the Zanu PF mob that was forcing vendors into the waiting bus.
“I was one of a few individuals who managed to run away. Most of the vendors were caught unawares and forced into the bus.
“The few items I am selling right now, I bought from farmers who came after the market was closed. I was forced to abandon my items at my table inside the market and they will obviously go bad, so I’m selling the little that I have to minimise my loss,” she said.
Some farmers had brought in perishables like bananas and avocados from as far as Manicaland province, while others from nearby small-scale farms had hoped to sell their green vegetables and tomatoes as usual.
“I do not know what to do right now,” said a farmer who identified himself as Gideon Mutamba. “I hired a truck to carry my avocados and bananas from Honde Valley as I do every week as per orders from vendors but now, there is no-one to receive them, let alone pay me”.
Another farmer, Millicent Mlambo, said she had an order for lettuce and broccoli from the vendors.
“The people I supply phoned me last night to bring them produce and now I’m stuck with it. I’m trying to sell it at give-away prices to people who are coming to the market and hope that the council police won’t arrest me,” said Mlambo.
The Ruwa vegetable market chairperson, Herbert Chipanga, bemoaned the losses suffered by the vendors and farmers.
“We have our best sales at weekends, and this being a month-end, we expected good business. Most vendors would have made huge orders which will probably go bad while some of our suppliers also made terrible losses as their produce had no-one to buy it,” said Chipanga.
He accused Zanu PF of routinely harassing vendors.
NewsHub established that, later that day, defiant vendors opened the green market gates and resumed business.
“We are just hoping there will not be any backlash,” said Chipanga.
The Zanu PF provincial spokesperson, Tatenda Mavetera, was not rechargeable for a comment as her phone was unavailable.
Last week, informal businesses in Eastview, a new low-income suburb close to Ruwa, were forcibly closed and traders as well as other residents herded to a rally addressed by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.