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Elderly woman killed during Mbare market demonstration
Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
September 23, 2009

A seventy-year old Harare woman was killed on Monday when informal traders demonstrating against the closure of market stalls in Mbare were stoned by a group of rowdy youths. Martha Chitambira is reported to have taken part in a demonstration led by the Zimbabwe Home Industries and Markets Association. Unidentified youths, suspected of trying to take advantage of the protest and steal from the protestors, then threw stones at their victims. Chitambira sustained head injuries and died on admission at Harare Hospital.

Family spokesman Crispen Chitambira made an appeal for the person responsible to own up. He told the state owned ZBC, 'I'm appealing to the culprit to come forward so that we can help him pray to ease his conscience. We have lost a great pillar of the family.' Police spokesman Inspector James Sabau has confirmed the arrest of 12 suspects in connection with the murder. He said the demonstration had been sanctioned by police and they were still trying to establish the motives of the youths who disrupted it.

Simbarashe Moyo the chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) told Newsreel the issue of the market stalls involved several government ministers and ZANU PF officials. He accused local government minister Ignatius Chombo and ZANU PF Women's League boss Oppah Muchinguri of owning several market stalls and sub-letting them for a hefty profit. He said the Harare City Council was only getting about 1 percent of the proceeds from the market stalls.

This month CHRA issued a statement exposing how Chombo wrote a letter to the City's Director of Housing, Justin Chivavaya, to reserve twelve market stands at Mupedzanhamo flea market in Mbare. The letter was written on the 17th March, after the councilors had raised the issue of the unfair allocation of market stands in Harare. CHRA also revealed that some former members of the Harare Commission, plus government and high ranking City of Harare officials, have multiple stands at Mupedzanhamo and Machipisa markets, which they are sub-letting to desperate residents.

It is further alleged that several stands have been allocated to 'ghost occupants' when in fact they are being run by senior politicians in ZANU PF. The Harare City council is cracking down on the problem and the closure of the markets is seen as a first step towards cleaning up and verifying who owns and runs the market stalls.

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