Councils engage vendors on relocation

Faced with a worsening problem of vendors turning undesignated places into markets, city councils have opened dialogue with vendors representatives and market committees to devise ways to relocate the concerned vendors.

The councils outlined their plans in separate interviews yesterday in view of a Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development decision to ask them to strategise on relocating the vendors from the streets to designated places. The ministry’s position comes months after it suspended the exercise owing to post-election tension.

Some of the vendors selling their products in Blantyre central business district

In a written response yesterday, Blantyre City Council (BCC) public relations manager Anthony Kasunda said the council, led by the mayor, is holding discussions with representatives of the vendors trading in undesignated places and vendors leadership in markets to find a lasting solution.

He said: “Both sides agree that the current situation cannot be left unchecked. But there is need to come up with a relocation strategy agreed by both sides. The council will inform the public at the right time on the way forward.”

Kasunda said BCC is in constant engagement with market leadership in various locations to allocate spaces in markets to vendors.

In a telephone interview, Mzuzu City Council (MCC) spokesperson MacDonald Gondwe also said the council is engaging various stakeholders, including customers who usually buy products from street vendors plying their trade in undesignated places.

He said: “Of course, this strategy started some time back and what we are trying to yield is to make them understand the basics of street vending; what are the negative consequences and if we deal with it, what can be the positives.”

Gondwe also said since they started holding such discussions, there has been positive response with a majority of the vendors returning to designated places.

Like BCC and MCC, Zomba City Council (ZCC) spokesperson Mercy Chaluma said the council is engaging the leadership of vendors in markets, and spreading messages of sensitisation.

Lilongwe City Council (LCC) spokesperson Tamara Chafunya asked for a questionnaire. However, she was yet to respond by press time.

In a written response yesterday, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho said the ministry has asked the councils to find non-violent strategies to relocate the vendors.

However, when put to her why the vendors were being relocated when the political tension was still high with the pending Constitutional Court judgement in the presidential election nullification petition case, she could only say each council was devising strategies.

Said Mughogho: “The councils were told to come up with non-violent strategies for clearing their streets. Each council is handling the issue depending on the way they have strategised.”

The councils ordered relocation of vendors trading outside shops and on street pavements in central business districts by September 30 2019.

However, the councils faced resistance from some vendors who burnt tyres and blocked roads as part of their protests.

Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development on October 8 2019 suspended the exercise due to political uncertainty.

Reads the statement: “I wish to advise that due to the current political situation that the country is experiencing, the minister has directed that the exercise of relocating the vendors to designated places should be put on hold until further notice.”

In recent years, street vending has been a challenge to the country’s cities as in most cases vendors have been clinging on to the streets instead of trading at the flea markets.

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