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Police have issued a warning to vendors smuggling vegetables to markets in the city following reports that Harare vendors were moving farm produce for sale in Bulawayo following a vending ban in the capital city due to the cholera outbreak.
Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube warned businesspeople who went against the city’s by-laws.
“We are working together with council and at this time we call upon all residents and the business community to uphold highest standards of hygiene and ethics in practice. Council by-laws are meant to protect us and we warn people who are going against those that the arm of the law will deal with them,” said Insp Ncube.
Ncube said the police were aware of people trying to take advantage of the cholera crisis.
“We are aware of some people who may want to bargain by doing unethical business and we warn those to stop their practice as they risk arrest. Our night patrol officers will be out in full force and will monitor activities going on at the markets.
“Deliveries must be done during the day so that at this time there is transparency and everything is above board. Searches will be conducted at road blocks and unscrupulous dealings will be picked out,” said Insp Ncube.
Bulawayo residents went into panic mode earlier this week after the markets were flooded with very cheap vegetables said to have been trucked from the capital.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu confirmed the development.
“We have received reports from residents claiming that there are vendors smuggling fruits and vegetables to Bulawayo,” she said.
She encouraged vendors to practise the highest standards of hygiene and urged residents to desist from buying produce from undesignated vending areas.
“The City of Bulawayo encourages residents to purchase from designated sites. Informal traders associations are also encouraged to notify their members to adhere to the highest standards of hygiene.
“It should be noted that vegetables or farm produce watered with raw sewage are susceptible to bacterial contamination such as e.coli, salmonella. It should be noted that residents of the City of Bulawayo can ensure their own personal safety by desisting from procuring these vegetables,” said Mpofu.
She said council would intensify confiscation of wares from vendors selling at undesignated areas.
“Illegal informal traders found to be operating from undesignated sites are encouraged to move. If found illegally operating, the City of Bulawayo and various partners will confiscate their wares,” she said.
Social media was awash yesterday and over the weekend with messages that purported vendors were bringing wares from Harare.
B-Metro spoke to some vendors at the market place along 5th Avenue who said haulage trucks were bringing “very cheap” farm produce suspected to be from Harare.
Nelisiwe Hlabangana who sells farm produce at a shop along George Silundika Street and 5th Avenue said they were losing out as people who operate vending stalls in high density suburbs were opting to buy from the trucks.
“It is much cheaper so most vendors from high density suburbs are buying there. However, we try to tell them that they are buying unsafe farm produce as vending has been banned in Harare streets but you can’t convince a person who feels they are getting a bargain,” she said.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders’ Association director Michael Ndiweni confirmed that farm produce was coming into the city “nicodemously” at night.
“Unscrupulous activities are happening at markets at night as vegetables are being delivered from Harare. This is a health hazard because vending has been temporarily banned in Harare in the first place. We urge our stakeholders to desist from buying farm produce from new or strange suppliers as they would be putting their customers’ lives at risk,” he said.
“We request that police intensify city patrols and keep an eye on activities that happen at the markets at night because we are aware that a lot is taking place,” said Ndiweni.
Cholera broke out in Harare on September 1 this year. More than 6 000 cases and at least 35 deaths have been recorded.