In the early hours of Wednesday morning, three vendors were injured in the Bulawayo Central Business District when municipal police opened fire with rubber bullets at a group of disgruntled vendors.
According to the Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Nyathi, the injured vendors were taken to the United Bulawayo Hospitals for treatment. He further confirmed that the police had fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that had gathered to demonstrate against an operation targeting illegal vendors in Bulawayo CBD on January 23rd, 2023.
Asst Comm Nyathi stated that more details about the shooting incident would be released in due course.
In addition to the police intervention, it has emerged that ZANU PF activists were moving along 5th Street from Robert Mugabe Street to Lobengula Street checking whether vendors were registered to vote. Josiah Mutangi, ZANU PF Nehanda District Chairman, addressed the vendors at the large city hall and instructed them to go back to their vending places after municipal police removed vendors on 5th Ave.
Zenzele Ndebele, a local journalist, reported that those vendors who were not registered to vote were being encouraged to register at ZEC. Vendors who failed to register by the end of that week would lose their vending spaces. In addition, all vendors who were not registered under ward 1 (city center) were asked to transfer and ensure they vote under ward 1. They were also required to produce proof of transfer from ZEC.
The incident has raised questions about the police’s use of force against unarmed civilians, particularly as the vendors were peaceful. It has also brought into focus the ongoing political maneuvering by political parties in the lead-up to the next elections.
Meanwhile, the injured vendors are still recovering at the United Bulawayo Hospitals, and authorities have urged for calm as investigations continue into the incident.