He was addressing mayors and council chairpersons at the 73rd Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) annual general meeting in Bulawayo.
“The role of the informal sector in our economy, the upsurge of indiscriminate vending in urban areas has acutely affected the ambience of our environs while compromising the health of the residents,” Chombo said, adding that “vendors are selling their wares from everywhere including on pavements, open spaces and in front of shops.”
The minister’s verdict comes hard on the heels of disparaging statements made by Vice President Phelekezeka Mphoko recently decrying “able-bodied people sitting down to sell tomatoes” on pavements instead of doing something worthwhile in urban centres wracked by unemployment.
The new Zanu PF deputy suggested vending should be a preserve of the disabled.
Chombo said vendors operating at undesignated areas in the cities and rural districts should be sacrificed for urban neatness.
“All local authorities are therefore required to immediately take necessary measures to remove the vendors from undesignated sites to alternative planned vending points,” he said.
This comes at a time when Zimbabwe's economy has been falling apart each passing day with several companies shutting down forcing many to resort to vending.
In her “meet-the-people” tours, First Lady Grace Mugabe last year ordered police to stop victimising struggling vendors.
Chombo, on the other hand, says local authorities should engage all stakeholders to ensure the streets are cleaned of subsistence traders who have become a permanent feature on most of the city’s streets and pavements.
He urged the city fathers to collaborate with the Small and Medium Enterprises ministry, security agencies and other relevant arms of government to ensure sanity is restored in the urban centres.
Turning to the issue of housing, the minister warned resurgent land barons against illegal disposal of State land.
“On a related note, uncontrollable urban sprawl has worsened the situation through sprouting of illegal settlements, especially in large cities and municipals,” he said.
“At the centre of these illicit developments are resurgent land barons who have been indiscriminately parcelling out land for personal benefit. Some of these people have resorted to use political rhetoric to promote and protect their interests,” Chombo added.
He said his ministry was not going to its fold hands and allow the situation to get out hand as culprits “will face the full wrath of the law.”
“All unsanctioned housing developments should be halted while those who are championing such activities must be reported to the police for prosecution,” Chombo said.
He said his ministry was working with the Lands and Rural Resettlement ministry to acquire land for urban housing development in all areas.
“The bulk of this land will be allocated to the local authorities for the necessary planning servicing and allocation to the needy.
“There is therefore no reason why unscrupulous persons should be allowed to turn our urban centres into a jungle in the name of redressing housing shortages,” he said. daily news