Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has temporarily halted its plans to embark on an operation to clear and clean the city centre of illegal activities following advice from the security and intelligence community.
The blitz, which was supposed to have commenced yesterday, would have seen those trading on undesignated sites on the streets, pavements and roadways, washing of cars, repairing of vehicles, illegal pickup points used by private vehicles, commuter omnibuses and buses, delivery of farm produce and other products onto the streets, push carts, heavy commercial vehicles in the city centre which has resulted in serious congestion, chaos, littering as well as an increase in pickpocketing, being chucked out.
However, council had to halt the exercise on the advice of the security sector pending consultations on the programme.
As part of that, a meeting was held yesterday at Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube’s office and it was attended by senior officers from the police, army, prisons, President’s Office as well as council management led by town clerk Mr Christopher Dube.
Bulawayo’s permanent secretary for provincial affairs and devolution Mr Paul Nyoni said a statement on the meeting’s resolution will be released in due course.
However, addressing a separate meeting with the business community at council chambers yesterday, Chamber secretary Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, said council had been ready to start enforcement yesterday, but the security sector thought it was wise for the parties to consult on the proper way forward that does not pose a threat to peace and security in the city.
“We did say that we were giving a warning to the people to leave the streets today (yesterday) and so there was an expectation from everyone in the city that there will be a lot of enforcement around the city. However, there was some polarisation around the enforcement and we had some groups preparing for this and that and this is why the security sector meeting was called today (yesterday) to say while we try to correct a wrong, let’s not ignite something that may remind us of the past evils like looting and burning down of buildings among other unwanted acts. If it (operation) is not well thought out, it may not work to the result that we want,” said Mrs Zhou.
She said municipal police have no arresting powers and they have to work hand-in-hand with the ZRP hence when they enforce by-laws. They have to hand offenders to the police.
“If, therefore, the police are saying they are not ready for such a massive action, it will be foolhardy for us to move forward. It’s not that the city is reneging on its promise to restore sanity, we are still ready, as soon as the rest of the security sector which has to support us for this exercise to be a success, give us the go-ahead we will be ready to enforce our by-laws,” said Mrs Zhou.
Mrs Sikhangele Zhou
A security source said council management made an elementary operational error by issuing a pre-warning of their operation before getting a buy-in from the security sector.
“We are just from the festive season where security details are deployed in various sectors for a certain period of time and before those duties are done, these details cannot then be deployed for another operation. Security protocol doesn’t allow that, unless it’s an emergency or an impromptu threat to national security. Had council engaged before issuing out warnings, they would have been told all this,” said the source.
Unsure if council police would pounce, the usually congested and chaos-filled Bulawayo pavements between Third and Sixth Avenues were yesterday morning generally empty until around mid-morning when vendors started trickling back onto the pavements. Conspicuous by their absence were the municipal police.
Transport operators also continued to operate from undesignated ranks. It was also business as usual for youths who wash cars on the streets as well as “bush” mechanics. — @skhumoyo2000