Harare’s most difficult place for passers-by — the former Ximex Mall area, the commuter bus terminus near Road Port and Copacabana — have attracted the attention of the police following numerous reports of abuse, especially against women.
About 250 dealers were arrested between Thursday and yesterday as police seek to restore order in Harare.
This comes after The Herald has consistently been reporting on the challenges facing ordinary people passing through such places.
Motorists find it difficult to navigate the areas as dealers, including foreign currency traders and vehicle importers, just park their vehicles in the middle of the road.
Forex traders also block pavements and pass disparaging remarks against anyone “impeding their operations”, but mainly women.
With no toilets at the former Ximex Mall, people that have “occupied” the area relieve themselves in the open, especially on the Main Post Office wall, and a strong stench is felt around the place.
But since Thursday, police have been conducting patrols to weed out the illegal dealers, and about 250 people have been netted so far.
Most of the suspects were arrested at the former Ximex Mall, Eastgate Mall, Chinhoyi Street (Copacabana) and at Road Port.
On Thursday, police arrested 144 people, 100 of whom were illegal foreign currency dealers who were picked up for obstructing the free movement of people; 15 were vendors, eight were hitch-hikers, while 21 were arrested for dangerous parking.
Yesterday, 99 people were arrested, with 50 being forex dealers, 15 hitch-hikers and 34 for dangerous parking.
Some of the suspects were released after paying fines, while others will appear in court facing different charges.
But by yesterday, some dealers were back to the streets and were playing hide-and-seek with police officers, who were on patrol.
Enterprising dealers abandoned the former Ximex Mall and moved to Angwa City Building, where a few others were already operating from, in a bid to avoid the police.
However, The Herald understands that police are now using video cameras from some high rise buildings near the hotspots, taking video footage of the dealers for easy identification.
Officer Commanding Harare Province Commissioner Bernard Dumbura confirmed the arrests and said the operation was continuing until sanity was restored.
“We are urging members of the public to be disciplined, especially drivers. They should follow the rules and regulations when travelling on road,” he said.
Comm Dumbura said it was disturbing to note that some of their officers were being attacked by unruly elements during the course of their duties.
“We would like to warn people who are engaging in any form of violence that the long arm of the law will catch up with them. They will have themselves to blame,” said Comm Dumbura.
A 16-member gang in Harare’s central business district (CBD) recently attacked three police officers on patrol, before breaking into some shops along Leopold Takawira and Rezende streets where they stole cash, mobile phones and other wares.
A police communication radio was also stolen, while a civilian was robbed of US$100 and $1 900.
Speaking at a crime awareness campaign on gender-based violence focusing on the 16 days of activism and drug use and abuse at bus terminuses this week, Harare Police Spokesperson Assistant Inspector Webster Dzvova said touts had become a menace in the CBD.
“We are facing challenges when it comes to touts. They verbally abuse women and children on streets and ranks,” said Asst Insp Dzvova.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe recently said police must decisively deal with criminals and hooligans who have become law unto themselves.