Police officers are demanding sexual favours from women vendors they would have arrested in exchange for their freedom, parliament heard on Tuesday.
Moving a motion on the plight of women vendors at the hands of both state police and municipal authorities, Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi West, Beata Nyamupinga, said law enforcement agents were demanding sexual favours before they could release arrested vendors, a move which is illegal and a violation of their rights.
"It is disheartening to note that women who would be battling to earn a living through vending are subjected to inhuman treatment. The aim is to create jobs but some, when arrested, are told to have sex with police officers so that they can be released," she said.
The MP, whose motion got support from other legislators across political parties represented in the National Assembly, produced an audio evidence of a woman testifying that police officers were now demanding sex to let them go free or they were made to pay "a heavy fine".
"Is this what the country's liberation war heroes fought for? Our women are suffering at the hands of these local authority officials. We should not talk about unemployment because we know that most women are in the informal sector," Nyamupinga said.
"But now they are being abused. Kukumbirwa kurarwa newe here kuti munhu atengese pamusika here (Is it fine for one to offer sex in exchange of vending)?Zvinoita here (Is this right) Madam Speaker?" Nyamupinga said.
"Izvi hazviite, munhukadzi kubatwa mazamhu nekuda kutengesa chete (This is obscene, caressing someone's breasts to allow them to sell), this is a violation of our rights as women."
The motion was moved at a time when social activists were demanding that informal traders be recognised at law and given space to operate freely and without harassment from police.
In the past, street vendors have been subjected to unwarranted arrests while their goods were confiscated without compensation.
"We have never heard of an auction for these confiscated goods. Where do they go, what happens to them? Madam Speaker, women are told to trade their dignity for their wares and as government, we should not allow this to happen," Nyamupinga said.
According to the motion which was seconded by MDC-T MP for Kuwadzana, Lucia Matibenga, government should designate areas for the construction of vending stalls in the prime business district areas and regulate vending activities through the introduction of vending licences.
Matibenga said women did not venture into vending for the fun of it, but to make a living.
"These women are feeding the nation, but we are giving them a raw deal. Through vending, these women are sending their children to school but our government and local authorities are using colonial laws to govern our people, laws that were meant for a few, something should be done," she said.
MDC-T legislator for Kambuzuma Willa Madzimure said in most cases, police officers abused their authority.
"Unoona mupurisa asina kupfeka uniform achibata mukadzi asiriwake pachiuno ( It is common for police officers to caress women) and then you ask yourself, what powers does this police officer have that allows him to do this," he said.
"We should protect our women. These police officers are abusing women vendors. Kana mukadzi akabatwa musana wake nemunhu asiri murume wake ( If a woman is caressed by someone not her husband) what do you expect her to do, she will offer a bribe for her freedom."
However, Joseph Chinotimba, the Buhera South MP, said the challenges being faced by street vendors was a result of "dull ministers" who were failing to resuscitate the collapsing economy.
"If I was the minister of Industry, Madam Speaker, ndaitora mavendors aya ndovaendesa kumacompanies arikuvharwa (I would employ vendors in firms that have shut down), it is very simple. We cannot allow these vendors to compete with shops at a time we want money from the same companies through taxes.
"These vendors should be moved outside the city centre so that these big shops operate and generate revenue for us to be paid as MPs from the taxes they would be paying," Chinotimba said.