By Duncan Mlanjira
The majority of city dwellers have been asking Blantyre City Council to remove street vendors plying their trade in undesignated areas, who are contributing to making the cities look untidy and ugly.
However, some are urging each other that the best solution is to stop buying from the street vendors so that they get discouraged and relocate to proper markets.
The mostly food vendors take advantage of people who find it inconvenient to go to the markets after they knockoff and prefer to buy a few needs of their dinners and breakfast off the vendors.
The call to boycott buying from the vendors come after Charles Ulaya, in one of his ‘Ulonda wa Lero’ signature postings on Facebook, included a picture of a street market place at Nando’s in Central Business District of Blantyre.
His post said: “If we had Councillors in Blantyre this would not have been allowed. Imagine Blantyre CBD at Nando’s, a market is developing but the Mayor is watching akuti democracy kuopa kusavoteledwa.
“Jack up Mayor and your Councillors. Better lose as a Councillor rather than allow this chaos. Go to Dar es Salaam [in Tanzania] or Kigali [in Rwanda] to ask your colleagues how they have managed to bring sanity in the city. City bylaws are there — let’s bring them back.”
To which Misozi Kamphinda Hughes responded that the best solution is for the people themselves to push the vendors away by not patronizing them.
“Stop buying from them and they’ll move to where their goods can be bought. Stop patronising street vendors and buy from market vendors,” he said.
Others said the City Council had tried to remove them but it never worked because the vendors complained that the markets are too far and people don’t go there to buy from them.
One said she doesn’t understand why people find it inconvenient to patronize the designated market places yet it’s the same direction they head to for their minibuses back home and there is also plenty of parking spaces.
But Shakira Namisengo replied, saying there can be can be some people that are that principled by not patronizing the street vendors but but there are so many that go for the convenience.
She said someone should take a step and be serious about chasing them back to the markets. I have seen vendors refusing to sell things in the streets for fear that the City Council patrol personnel might confiscate their merchandise but such action is no longer there.
“Trust me, if people stop buying from them for just a week they’ll move themselves to where they should be.”
Prescott Wreath said: “You cannot control all buyers. They are in millions. You can control the sellers — they could be less than 200.”
Others agree with Wreath, saying its not the citizenry’s responsibility to chase them away — it is the government’s and that if the government made sure they are not there, people will go to the designated places.
Lockington Gondwe defended Blantyre City Council, saying they have been chasing these vendors even confiscating their merchandise during day-time patrols and late hours of the day but after some few weeks vendors bounce back.
“They have been running battles all along with vendors. The City Council officials can’t be guarding this place throughout the day.
“It needs collective understanding of the situation by vendors and city officials otherwise vendors take it as victimisation while in true sense it’s not the way they think.
“My point is that Blantyre City Council is not wholly to blame — it’s a collective thing. During [former President late Bingu wa] Mutharika time, vendors were taken to other countries to appreciate how their fellow vendors were doing business and that vendors were part of enforcement of bye-laws despite being evicted out by police it was a joint effort.”
The country’s celebrated and award winning filmmaker, Charles Shemu Joyah said these markets are a true reflection of what Malawi really is and they are providing a way of living for many Malawians, who are just as entitled as everyone else to earn a living from the city.
“Pushing them to the backstreets will only be window-dressing a serious socio-economic problem. We will only be pretending to be what we are not, which as Malawians we are very good at.
“Can someone hazard a guess as to how much money exchange hands in a day at these markets and then compare it to the daily movement of money in the entire economy? You will be surprised.”
But Wati Mkandawire differed with Shemu Joyah, saying: “I have been an advocate of people like you running for Councillor positions if we are to change our communities but you all either keep out or prefer to run for MPs.
“Imagine you, Tawona Mkandawire, Chris-Tofa Kapanga, Owen Mbilizi, Marvin Hanke, Alan Chinula, Chikosa Silungwe etc etc being councillors.
“First, you will not seat for allowances. You will be pushing to ensure decentralisation takes place and the councils have more power to make decisions.
“Within 5 years, you can transform a city to something that we desire. That is when people will know what is possible at community level,” he said.
Chris-Tofa Kapanga joined in, saying: “Wati Mkandawire, Councillors unfortunately need political party support/affiliation or they get booted out. When these positions become truly neutral and independent, I might get interested.”
To which Shemu Joyah said: “I think Chris-Tofa Kapanga has answered for us all. There is usually more forces at play and one cannot survive the environment.
“The decentralization process has been torpedoed by senior civil servants at Capital Hill who would lose their power and allowances if effective power devolved to local authorities.
“The only way it can work is if the First Citizen himself would see value in this and push the policy at that high level.
“Unfortunately I don’t think we have had the fortune to have a president who sees the value of a functional decentralized structure.”
Jeff Mushumba Kaira suggested that it should starts from the top just like what former President late Bingu tried to do.
“The late great Bingu said he was ashamed of Malawi and he vowed to change Malawi so he doesn’t have to be ashamed anymore. And for the short period he led Malawi he indeed changed Malawi.
“Mzuzu suddenly started to grow. To this day Mzuzu can no longer be talked of in the same breath as Zomba. And it continues to grow.
“City Centre in Lilongwe now looks more like a capital. Thanks to the high rise hotel, the BICC and a proper dual carriage way that Bingu presided on.
“Now I really don’t know. Bingu lived in Zimbabwe. APM lived in the US. Both for years. Which part of the US was APM living? Very rural part of the US? — because why is he OK with the mess that is today’s Malawi?”
Percy Malata suggested that perhaps the country needed a strong leader as is the case in Rwanda and Tanzania.
“Democracy has failed us or we have failed democracy,” he said.
To which Kondwa Mwamakura responded: “My first time in Dar es Salaam, I was detained for 24 hours only for throwing sugercane peels in their street. I was detained alongside the sugercane seller. No excuse was acceptable.”
John Mitchell joined in: “Another case is the Wenela bus station. There is just total chaos and mayhem there.
“One can hardly drive through the quagmire of improperly parked buses and taxis topped up by a myriad of criss crossing glazed eyed call boys high on alcohol and possibly drugs.
“Who owns the bus station? Who owns the adjacent plot where smaller minibuses park? Can’t the place be redeveloped or if not be relocated elsewhere?” he questioned.