By Duncan Mlanjira
The public notice from Blantyre City Council to forcibly stop vendors from plying their trade along the streets pavements and in other undesignated places, has been met mixed reactions from the general public, arguing that with the high rate of unemployment, the authorities should have first invested in better infrastructure.
City Council advised that by midnight of Friday, September 18, 2020, all vendors should immediately stop trading and move into nearby designated markets and that “failure to voluntarily vacate the streets by the given deadline shall compel the Council to use lawful means of forcing them out”.
“Residents and members of the public are hereby asked to stop buying from street vendors so that together we can stop the malpractice.
“The Council is also asking people who erected structures along roads and other areas without Council approval to immediately take down those structures [as] the Council is embarking on an exercise to demolish all illegal structures.”
In their reactions on social media, some schools of thought believe this can escalate strong resistance that can lead to mass demonstrations and also create a political bomb for the future.
In his comment on Facebook, Lovemore Kaunga said there is indeed the need to remove the vendors from the pavements in order to preserve some decency on the cities but there should be a deliberate move to create proper space to accommodate them.
“Removing should them should not mean killing their businesses, no! The core purpose of vending is to sustain livelihood — so do not push them out just for the sake of doing so.
“They are where they are because they have nowhere else to go. So government should find space for them first and move them. This is my understanding,” he said.
David Yohane argued that street vending won’t end even if the government fights hard for it because it’s for the vendors‘ daily survive.
“Government must provide the 1 million jobs first, maybe it will work. To those who are saying go ahead and remove them, put yourselves in [the vendors] shoes.”
However, Kapyola Mtambalika argues that the street vendors should go, saying a country that can allow such lawlessness cannot develop at all while Ernest Lundu said with proper guidance and organization, street vending can be of good.
“Street vendors are not the problem, the local authorities are,” he said.
Chifundo Balakasi concurred with Lundu and gave an example of the action done by former President, late Bingu wa Mutharika, whom he described as a no nonsense President.
“He wanted everything to be in order and removed these vendors only for Joyce Banda to let them back in the streets and APM followed suit just to achieve their selfish political desires.
“But now the Tonse Alliance Government should do the right thing by removing all these vendors and make our cities beautiful and clean again. This has got nothing to do with politics but for the whole nation to do the right thing.”
Kennie Khawala posed the question that if they are removed now won’t the politicians need them come 2025 for the next elections?: “These are the same people who suffered a lot doing demonstrations.
“You promised them lots of things — fulfil the promises first before you remove them” but Khawala was challenged by another commentator, who said with this mentality there is no way Malawi can develop as a country if all people can behave in this manner — forgetting sanity and rule of law.
“Brothers, when it comes to development put politics aside first,” he said.
Sam Dalitso argued that Bingu had challenged the vendors before removing them from the streets that he could not lose an election because of 17,000 votes that was them estimated to be according to population census.
“‘Get out of the pavements’, he had said and he won the 2009 election with a landslide. Blantyre City Council please follow suit — we need sanity.”
Idriss Ali Nassah cried for Blantyre which was once one of the cleanest cities in Africa, but not any more.
“Today, street vendors are everywhere; you step out of Topman into a pavement full of tomatoes, fresh and dried fish and, even, a man sitting over a mbaula roasting fresh maize for sale.
“The downtown is rundown. Rubbish lies uncollected for days on end, vehicles are left parked anyhow and minibus drivers and their attendant call-boys are a menacing law unto themselves.
“Added to this is the new nuisance of Sienta vehicles — now used as public transport — that have appropriated for themselves portions of the street at Nandos, across the road at Mt Soche Hotel, near First Capital Bank and at several other places.
“These rogues now effectively own and run the streets, while those with the power to bring law and order unto the streets pretend that they are powerless to do anything about it. It’s a free for all.”
He concluded that cleaning up the city streets will not be easy and the solution won’t be simple, but it has to be done and “if nothing is done now, Malawi will be left counting the cost of lawlessness, decay and disfunction for years to come”.
Dannie Grant Phiri also bemoaned the way Malawians do their daily business that see public transport minibuses clogging the roads and that truckers are now using Maselema as their parking yard and that vehicles are being sold everywhere, including trucks at Limbe Post Office.
Meanwhile, while in agreement with the City Council’s decision to remove the vendors, Justice Dunstain Mwaungulu contends that the exercise should also target motor vehicles sellers trading on open grounds.
He says these car vendors should be required to have trading as well importing licences.
He also said importers of whatever amount or goods should get a Malawi Revenue Authority taxpayer identification number (TPIN) detailing the type of goods imported.
He goes further to suggest that the City Council should open up the Chikwawa road area between Stella Marris and Mpemba to build modern day shops for medium and large businesses for renting.
Mwaungulu says the targeted clientele to let the shops to should not be be based racism or discrimination but to target indigenous Malawians; indigenous mixed Asian and Caucasion; Caucasian and Asian.
“Limbe is essentially Asian shopping area where they even impose strict drinking and pork conditions for rent to companies and African small businesses,” he said.
“Blantyre is 75% Caucasian and 25% Asian. There are dots and dots of Press Corporation and former MDC investment because, in the absence of viable African entrepreneurship, Kamuzu’s policy was to share the business through statutory corporation and private entity — Press Corporation.
“Kamuzu’s policy was not to nationalise but to accommodate indigenous African business competition with the dominant Asian and Caucasian business.
“That policy vanished when politically and unconstitutionally the government passed the Press Trust Reconstruction Act on poor advice on property rights in the Press Corporation or Press Trust.”
He further contends that the City Council, through its Town Planning Authority and Quinqilinil Courts — using its legislative powers and judicial powers — should declare from now on that it will not allow new constructions on the Chipembere Highway and other important streets there for business premises of less than 5 stories.
He said the City Council should give those already on these streets five years to comply and After 5 years, the Central Government can use the Compulsory Acquisition Act.