MUTARE - At least 600 informal traders are set to be relocated from Mutare’s Meikles Park to a yet to be identified area after the city council reportedly leased the park to a private operator.
The informal traders were distraught on Wednesday after learning that the place had been allocated to Zanu PF central committee member and Mutare business mogul Isau Mupfumi under a four-year lease .
Munyaradzi Mubande, an informal trader at the busy Meikles Park situated in the Central Business District, said he was unhappy after the local authority and central government reached an agreement to lease the area to a private individual without their knowledge.
“This is unfair to the informal traders who have not been given a chance to agree on the lease on their own despite the indigenisation drive,” fumed Mubande, who spoke on behalf of the informal traders who sell clothing among other wares.
“We should at least have been informed in time that the land has been earmarked for such a development. Where are we going to do business as it stands?”
He said the general feeling among the informal traders was that there was a bigger story behind their ejection from Meikles Park.
“We suspect sinister motives on this said development,” he said.
George Gaura, another informal trader at the Park, said allowing one individual to benefit from the place would be undermining empowerment.
“Empowerment has to be for all deserving citizens and not one person to fatten their wallets and purses. As Zimbabweans, such a move has to be challenged,” said Gaura, who runs a table that sells clothing and footwear at the park.
Mutare mayor councilor Tatenda Nhamarare said he had received the news through the rumour mill and was yet to get all the facts about the deal.
“I need time to get the papers concerning the lease of the Meikles Park and get the correct positions as of now I do not have an authoritative comment over it,” Nhamarare told the Daily News.
Mupfumi said as far as he knows, the place had been put up for sale for a long time and he had expressed interest in it.
“There was an offer for sale and I have openly declared an interest to develop it; that is the position,” Mupfumi said without elaborating.
But informal trader Mandy Kashiri said she wants the council or whoever is behind the sale to have it reversed as it is not in the best interest of the people.
“The majority of people operating at the Meikles Park are jobless and for it to be sold to one person is gross injustice. We do not know where we will end up,” she said.
Kashiri said the informal traders were each paying council $1 a day and they were unsure if the new owner would still continue to charge the nominal fee.
Officials close to the deal told the Daily News that there were also plans to relocate offices of the Manicaland Publicity Association where tourists and other travellers get information on destinations around the province and Zimbabwe in general.
An official at the offices confirmed that they had been advised that their days were numbered at the offices, situated in the park.