WIDOWS for Economic Development (Widows4ED) has written a scathing letter advising President Emmerson Mnangagwa to fire Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti, who they accused of arrogance.
The group is one of the many 4ED organisations that have cropped up and seems to have been angered by a decision to force them off ‘Park Street Market’ in Harare.
Park Street is an open-air vending site in the central business district (CBD) operational on Saturday and Sunday only. It was authorised by late Harare Provincial Minister, Oliver Chidawu in 2018.
The letter, signed by Fungai Mutinsi, the association chairperson, further accuses Muguti of arrogantly declaring that he was Mnangagwa’s blue-eyed boy doing work directly given to him by the President.
In September, Muguti closed the site, ordering armed anti-riot officers to seal it off. Eventually the vendors, mainly Zanu PF women’s league and youth league members, were beaten up and chased from the site as they sought to defy the order.
“Our main challenge is Muguti who defied a Court Order by unleashing the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on September 17. Old women were threatened and told they would be thoroughly beaten,” reads the letter addressed to Mnangagwa and copied to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, and Zanu PF provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa,
Police Commissioner General, Godwin Matanga, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe also received copies.
Adds the letter: “After realising that most of the widows and youths were unable to engage in productive activities because of exorbitant rentals charged by property owners, we decided to introduce the concept of a weekend market to bring convenience and affordability to the shopping public, while giving widows and youths access to affordable trading spaces.
“Beginning 2016, we approached various authorities within both central and local government, culminating in the granting of permission to use Park Street during weekends for the Weekend Market concept.
“Over the past six years that we have been operating, a significant number of widows and youths have managed to upgrade their operations migrating from being weekend table operators to owners of boutique shops in and outside Harare.”
The market itself is a replication of similar ones across the country, such as Bulawayo’s Tower Block Market, which like the former accommodates vendors selling second hand clothes. Mobile toilets and tents are pitched each weekend for customers and vendors at the market.
“Since the unfortunate passing on of (former Harare province minister Oliver) Chidawu, the Park Street Weekend Market has been under siege from the very people who never liked the concept,” the group added.
“We have been receiving numerous threats to close the market notwithstanding that there is an extant court order protecting our continued operation at Park Street.
“The threats got to the most deplorable levels when Muguti told us in our face, at a recent meeting with him, that if we wanted to remain at Park Street we should go and resurrect the late Chidawu from the National Heroes Acre.”
They added; “This came as a shock to us, as we never expected such disparaging remarks from a senior government official who had worked all these years under the leadership of Chidawu.
“Muguti told us in our face that he had instructions from you, your Excellency, to shut down our weekend market. This was shocking and difficult to believe, as we do not know you as a person who is against the uplifting of marginalised members of the society.
“Muguti clearly stated that he is the President’s blue-eyed boy in Harare and had direct orders from the President to cleat the rot caused by the late Chidawu.”
The pro-Zanu PF grouping called on Mnangagwa to reconsider his decision to appoint Muguti as Harare PDC; calls which have in the past been a preserve of opposition voices angered by some of the latter’s decisions such as mass demolition of houses and tuck-shops across the province.
“We kindly request your esteemed office to make the following interventions so that the positive vibes are not doused; reassurance that government will protect legitimate business activities by the widows and youths and assurance that government will protect and promote Park Street Weekend Market in line with an existing court order in our favour.
“We kindly request that you reconsider the suitability of Muguti as Harare PDC regards his conduct which violates the country’s law and will likely foment negative sentiment against the government and the party.”
Muguti recently gave all councils under his authority orders to initiate a cleanup campaign at their expense, that could see loss of property and livelihoods in a repetition of the infamous ‘Operation Murambatsvina’.