COMMENT: Bulawayo City Council should probe space barons Bulawayo City Council

THE Bulawayo City Council must investigate allegations that some “space barons” are demanding protection fees from vendors to evade being chased away from illegal vending sites and hand over such elements to the police.

The issue of space barons is contributing to the vending chaos in the city as they give vendors false assurances that, after paying protection fees, they can operate illegally without any censure.

Vendors alleged that these space barons are working in cahoots with some corrupt council officials and we call upon BCC to investigate and weed out the criminal elements within its ranks.

Such criminal elements are not only found in vending, but also among illegal transport operators.

Some cartels make illegal transport operators pay certain fees so that they can operate from illegal pick-up points.

What this means is that these cartels make people pay to commit crimes and such activity cannot be allowed to go on if the council is serious about eradicating chaos in the city.

Members of the public must also follow proper channels to acquire vending licenses and not rely on these criminal elements, as they will be equally guilty of engaging in illegal activities.

We reported yesterday that some desperate vendors in Bulawayo have fallen prey to unscrupulous individuals, masquerading as representatives of informal traders’ associations and swindling them of money under the pretext of facilitating vending bays at the Fifth Avenue marketplace.

Aggrieved vendors, said they were made to pay between US$3 and US$250 to secure space. They also claimed that they were being coerced into paying US$1 “protection fee” a day to evade being raided by municipal officers.

They also claimed that the money was being collected by individuals purporting to belong to associations called City Vendors and Tata.

“Most of the vendors did not receive receipts for such payments. Another group that was taking money is called Tata and the money was collected by one guy who calls himself Ranga at Tomu restaurant,” said a disgruntled vendor who requested anonymity.

He said some vendors were afraid of confronting the suspects as they didn’t want to blow their chances of securing vending bays.

“Most of the vendors are afraid of blowing their chances of getting vending bays and are confused.

“Fifth Avenue is our source of livelihood and once that is taken we have nowhere else to go,” said the vendor.

Until such criminality is arrested, the efforts to restore order in Bulawayo will not work.

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