Vendors back on Lilongwe streets ‘courtesy of Bingu’

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

Vendors have started selling their merchandise in the streets of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe claiming President Bingu wa Mutharika allowed them to do so.

But presidential spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba said Mutharika never gave that directive when he met vendors.

Almost all streets of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, from Kamuzu Procession Road, Chirambula road up to Malangalanga Road have a multitude of vendors selling all sorts of goods making it difficult for people to move on the streets or enter shops.

The vendors have even covered some lanes on main streets with their commodities. The vendors also sell their goods on the pathways, corridors of shops even entrances to shops.

Leader of the vendors, Richard Chunga, said President Mutharika encouraged them to trade at any place of their choice including the streets.

Vendors; Back in the streets

He said Mutharika said this when he visited shops vandalized during July 20 anti-government demonstrations.

“President Mutharika in his own words said vendors are free to sell their commodities at a place they wished,” said Chunga. “He said this during his whistle stop tour in Lilongwe and near Tsoka Market.”

But Ntaba said Mutharika has been quoted out of context.

“The President did not order vendors to go back on the streets. He never said that,” said Ntaba.

The presidential spin-doctor said “it is the work of the opposition” to push vendors on the streets to incite anarchy.

“We’re also aware that some opposition functionaries have hijacked the whole thing. They’re encouraging the vendors to go back unto the streets in order to alienate the president from the vendors,” he told Zodiak Radio.

“In fact, we’ve information that the opposition wanted to use these vendors to throw events on the 17 and 18 August, 2011 into disarray, thereby blaming the government for the fracas,” Ntaba claimed.

Lilongwe City Council Chief Executive Kelvin Mmangisa said they will engage the vendors in dialogue to move them out of the streets.

Vendors said they will not leave the streets saying they made no money in the designated market authorities wanted them to trade from, saying they were not ideal for profitable trading.

Street vending mushroomed in Malawi when the regime of former President Bakili Muluzi liberalised the economy in the early 1990s.

Muluzi encouraged informal trading, saying it was part of his poverty eradication programme.

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