Business came to a standstill on Wednesday in Lilongwe central business district (CBD) and the flea market as vendors held protests against each other over the business environment.
Vendors selling their goods at the flea market stopped all business there to force government to flush out street vendors whom they accuse of spoiling their business.
Although chairpersons from both the central and flea market refused to grant an interview, Nation Online crew found that vendors in the designated markets were complaining of ‘unfavourable’ business environment because of street vendors.
They staged protests in the morning, burning tyres and blocking vehicles at the flyover bridge while street vendors chanted songs in what they described as their business territory.
Those believed to be street vendors were chanting and marching within what they claimed their territory when selling their merchandise. They marched between Bwaila Hospital, the CBD, Devil Street and a small stretch between the Lilongwe Mosque and the flyover bridge.
Almost all shops were until around 13:00 hours when the situation calmed down.
Some police officers were seen guarding a Bata Shoe shop, which was affected during previous demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), but there were no Lilongwe City Council (LCC) officials in sight.
LCC spokesperson Tamara Chafunya in a written response said the council will come up with a position on why it is not enforcing by-laws that forbid selling of goods within the city’s streets.
Recently, street vendors in Blantyre clashed with Blantyre City Council officials who attempted to flush them out of the streets.
Later, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri intervened by writing a memo to the council to halt the operations due to the prevailing political tension.
The ministry spokesperson MuhlabaseMughogho said government wants vendors to be removed from the streets without causing any harm.
She said: “You may recall that there was a circular sent to councils requesting them to halt the process of removing vendors from undesignated areas due to reasons given. We want vendors to be removed but we want it done without violence, looking at the already volatile situation.”
Malawi Police Service (MPS) spokesperson James Kadadzera refused to comment on why the police are not enforcing the council by-laws against street vending.
During the demonstrations yesterday, there were no incidences of violence reported although some vendors were seen carrying stones and planks while they were chanting.