President Lazarus Chakwera has said the country need a more lasting solution `to the issue of street vending in the cities and announced his plan to engage councillors to resolve the matter.
Sweeping exercises to drive vendors out of the streets and sidewalks to designated places has in recent years faced resistance in the cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre with the traders raising concern of hostility and inadequate space.
President Chakwera , in his national address Saturday night monitored on local radio stations, disclosed that over the next six months, he will host three strategic conferences with the councillors of three cities, beginning with the 27 councillors of Lilongwe City.
“Under my presidency, the city authorities will receive the support they need to serve Malawi’s citizens with excellence and turn our cities into flourishing havens of peace and prosperity, even for vendors,” the President said.
Street vending in the cities of Malawi has many faces. It provides people with cheap goods, but is also considered an eyesore and sometimes even a disguise for thieves. Especially women feel vulnerable.
Street vending first flourished under the rule of President Bakili Muluzi (1994 to 2004), who encouraged young men and women to venture into this business. He even introduced a youth loan scheme to lower the high rate of youth unemployment.
Chakwera said Malawi as a nation should bear responsibility for the mess that goes on in the country’s cities, thereby compromising hygiene, sanity and beauty.
The Malawi leader said last week, street vendors within the capital city were told by the city authorities to move their benches away from unauthorised places such as sidewalks and relocate to designated markets.
“Sadly, these running battles between city authorities and street vendors have become a yearly staple, which is clearly a sign that we need a more lasting solution to the problems our street vendors need us to solve.
“As I understand it, the street vendors feel aggrieved every time they are forcefully removed from unauthorised places, and so when it happened again…they marched to the city council to have their grievances heard,” he said.
The President commended the street vendors for marching peacefully, but also for raising such pertinent issues as the lack of space for plying their trade.
“I also commend the city authorities for encouraging the vendors to always bring their need and request for space to the council for processing rather than resorting to conducting their businesses illegally,” Chakwera said.
He said the nation cannot build a new Malawi with beautiful cities if vendors and city authorities continue to treat each other as adversaries.
It remains to be seen, however, how Chakwera’s government will deal with the vendors issue.
Among the street youth, some really are small-scale shopkeepers. Others, however, engage in criminal activities. To outsiders, the “vendors community” looks more like a set of youth gangs.
Many Malawians hope that Chakwera will prove a better president than ~his predecessor Peter Mutharika, whose impunity cost him the presidency and could not get a second term of office.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :