Civil society in Malawi has warned government not to remove vendors from streets on July 20 2012 as the date coincides with a critical day in the countryâ€™s political struggle history when 20 lives were lost.
Government has set the deadline of July 20 for vendors to move out of the streets, coinciding with last yearâ€™s July 20 nationwide anti-government demonstrations against poor governance and economic malaise under the administration of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
But some civil society leaders have appealed to government to seriously consider changing the date, arguing the July 20 deadline is bad timing.
However, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Grace Maseko in an interview on Wednesday said the July 20 deadline was arrived at in consultation with the vendors through their association.
Maseko said as a matter of fact, July 20 is a deadline, meaning the vendors have to start moving before that date. She said that in Lilongwe, vendors have already started moving and there will be no need to use force as feared by civil society.
Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) national coordinator Benedicto Kondowe said: “July 20 coincides with last yearâ€™s events when Malawi lost 20 lives during anti-government demonstrations. Government must give vendors ample time and seriously engage to avoid possible violence.
“If government wants to use its machinery and forcibly attempt to kick vendors out of the streets, thatâ€™s a grave mistake because anything can happen as July 20 memories are still fresh.”
Malawi Watch executive director Billy Banda warned government to tread carefully on its decision.
Banda said already the police are struggling to curb insecurity which he fears can be worsened by forceful removal of vendors from the streets.
Said Banda: “Even in countries that are economically more advanced than Malawi, for example, Tanzania, they have businesspersons that operate in containers in cities and government accommodates them because it knows that is all they have for a living.”