There was running battle in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe Tuesday September 17 2013 as two opposing camps of vendors tried to outwit each other, with one group pumping sense in the other that they do their business in designated places, with the other refusing to relent.
The commotion was a departure from the usual running battle as this time it was an all-vendors affair while in the past it has been the government agents (Councils and Police) on one side and the vendors on the other.
It was however the usual effects as business became to a standstill with several vehicles damaged, some roads and shops closed, and innocent souls been tear gassed, as the two warring factions resorted in stoning each other.
What insinuated the battle is that vendors who ply their trade at designated market places feel cheated by the government and took it upon themselves to chase the clique that does their business along the streets.
“Our sales are plummeting just because we are law abiding as we are still trading in the Flea market while the businesses of our defiant colleague are booming in the streets. This is not fair, and we will not tolerate this any longer,” challenged one vendor from the Flea Market group, who claimed that some closed business just because customers buy from the streets.
As drivers, especially of minibuses cruised to save their vehicles, shop owners also closed their premises in fear of other people taking advantage of the situation to loot property of innocent people, which has been the case in the past.
The Police were called to quell the situation with hundreds of anti-riot police camping in the streets, especially along the Kamuzu Procession road, Malangalanga road and around Bwaila Hospital, as other civilian police officers patrolled the streets.
Armed with sticks and different objects the enforcing vendors not only did they chase away the illegal vendors, but pulled down the illegal structures, which annoyed their opposing camp, and forced them to retaliate thereby turning the city into turmoil.
The Flea Market vendors said that they could no longer stomach the delays by authorities to remove the vendors from the streets, hence taking the action by themselves. They have since vowed not to stop the exercise or else they too will follow to the streets.
The street vendors claim the flea market is too small to accommodate all the vendors plying their trade around Lilongwe old town area hence their decision to invade the streets.
In Blantyre the situation is normal although the city council went around the streets last week warning vendors of un specified action should they cling in the streets.
While conceding that some vendors in the cities are leaving their designated vending places and returning to sell their merchandise in the streets, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, under which the local authority falls, has not hid its dismay over the conduct of these vendors, and has since called upon the cluster to return to the planned vending places forthwith.
Street vending spouted at the dawn of mufti-party democracy and although the government has, through the police and individual councils, tried to reason with the vendors at various forums, the later seems not to comply.
The Police are saying that they will continue monitoring the situation as they would not want people to lose lives or property, or bring disorder in the country.
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