By: Priscilla Mukokobi
The Katima Mulilo town council has told street vendors to move from where they usually operate because they dirtify the town.
The council decided, following their sixth council meeting on 5 August, to “in line with regulations No. 273 of 2004, read together with section 51 of the Local Authority Act [Act 23 of 1992] as amended, remove street vendors operating in our town streets and in front of shops to occupy empty stalls in the open market.”
This has dismayed about 100 street vendors, who demonstrated on Friday, claiming they have nowhere else to go if they relocate from where they currently peddle food and other wares.
Street vendors who spoke to The Villager said Chinese shop owners do not want to see street vendors in front of their shops.
Native Small Traders Association handed over the petition to the Zambezi regional council on Friday.
In the petition, they stated, “it is shameful for an institution like Katima Mulilo Town Council to promote markets with cheap materials or no materials, giving an impression that they are implementing projects without a budget.”
According to the petition, the town council’s actions towards vendors amount to poor service, are inhumane and barbaric.
Moila Matengu, one of the street vendors, told The Villager that the place they are being forced to move to is sunny, and they cannot sell their food in the sun and usually come with small children.
“We are in shock. One of us is being buried today. When the town council started all this, we all gathered in the park to find a possible solution if we should start a demonstration or no one of us passed away because she couldn’t bare the pain of staying home without doing anything,” she said.
She further said that people in offices are telling them to go back to the villages and that they are dirtying the town, but street vendors cannot stay in the village being idle as they have to provide for their children.
“When it comes to jobs, the same people in offices are giving them to family members and leaving our children. I have three children who graduated two years ago, but still, up to now, they are not employed and are tired of applying for vacancies. Now the town council wants to chase us in the streets. How are we going to survive?
Another vendor Moses Misika appealed to the Katima Mulilo town council to look for a suitable place in town for street vendors not to lose their customers while they are still waiting for the council to establish an open market in the town.
“This is where I get money to pay for my children’s school fees and to provide for my family. If they move us, how will we be able to provide for our families?” he queried
The Native Small Traders Association called on the municipality to consult people involved when designating any place for any purpose, especially when dealing with small vendors or residents of such localities. They said the market they were moved to is unwelcomed.
“Katima Mulilo Open market has challenges that they need to attend to instead of evicting vendors from their vending places, e.g. the market is flowing with sewer, the market is not renovated, and it does not have working lamps for it to operate 24/7 and the market vendors are complaining about untamed cats.”
It further states they disapprove the removal of street vendors in the strongest terms.
“We want to remind the town council to attend to unfinished projects if they have money. Nova needs some infrastructure. The compound water reservoirs are ageing with no benefits, and the Choto sewer system is also becoming vandalised.”
They demanded that the council relax their by-laws to allow vendors to return to their vending spaces immediately.
The further petition demanded that Katima Mulilo mayor Lister Shamalaza and the chief executive officer, Raphael Liswaniso step down immediately.
Libeko Lilungwe, a Namibia University of Science and Technology graduate (Nust), said she graduated in 2017, yet there are no jobs. That’s when she decided to sell her vegetables in the streets.
“Why are our people doing this to us? The government said we should be self-employed. When we sell in the streets, they evict us. Yet they are allowing foreigners to come to sell and occupy our spaces. How do they want us to survive? We have families to feed,” she said.
She further said that there are street vendors everywhere, even in Windhoek.
When this publication called Liswaniso for a comment, he said he was unaware of the matter as he has been out of the region for the past two weeks.
In a media release on Friday, the Katima Mulilo town council stated that the remaining vendors who couldn’t be allocated stalls in the open market were to be moved to recognised vending places in front of the current sports field close to Pick’n’Pay and an open space opposite Kamunu wholesale and Caprivi secondary school.
They further said the decision was taken to “control the mushrooming of these street vendors which was, in turn, promoting criminal activities in the town.”
“On many occasions, we receive complaints by the community of criminal activities committed allegedly by these street vendors. Items such as cellphones and money have been stolen from community members, specifically women.”
It further added that these vendors are not only Namibians, but the majority are Zambian and Zimbabwean nationals that have been trading illegally in the town.
“The removal of street vendors is also in with the Katima Mulilo streets and traffic regulations no 274 of 2004 which prohibits street vending without council’s authorisation.”