Mzuzu City Council chief executive officer Thomas Chirwa has admitted that the move to rid the streets of vendors is tricky as markets are already congested.
The assembly, in partnership with the police, launched an exercise to clean up the streets of vendors last week.
Similar exercises are being conducted in other cities throughout the country with police officers guarding potential street vending spots.
Speaking in a interview last Tuesday, Chirwa said markets in the city are congested, therefore, forcing street vendors into central markets is unhealthy.
“Their claim that the markets are already congested is genuine; so, what we are trying to do is to ask them to find spaces in markets that are in various residential areas. This would ease the burden of customers travelling to the city centre to buy things.
“However, there is also fear that such a move cannot be effective as people flock to town where there is big business,” he said.
Chirwa said if the flea market was operational, it would have helped to accommodate some of the businesspeople.
He said government is doing all it can to have the market completed.
“Press Trust has expressed commitment to finish the market. Anytime works will resume. What is remaining is to assess cost of finishing the market,” said Chirwa.
One of the vendors in the city, Amos Kawonga, said government should open Mzuzu Flea Market if they are to leave the streets.
He said it is inhuman for city officials to force them into markets which are already congested.
“The city officials are failing to allocate us a place where we can do our business. They are chasing us from the streets which is affecting our business. We have families and they survive on what we make in the streets,” said Kawonga.
But Northern Region Vendors chairperson Stanley Simbeye said they welcomed the idea of relocating street traders. He said street vending has many negative stereotypes which legitimate vendors do not want to be associated with.
“Street vending leaves the city untidy as waste is dumped anyhow. It also promotes theft as thieves take advantage of congestion in the streets to steal from customers.
“The most annoying part is that street vendors, who do not pay market fees, get our customers and we are the ones who suffer. We continue to pay market fees when our businesses are affected,” said Simbeye.
Mzuzu Police spokesperson Maurice Chapola said though there are no proper places to relocate street vendors to, it is a must that they move out as their presence contributes to incidents of crime.