DEALING WITH VENDORS
GOVERNMENT must find a way to accommodate street vendors, especially in Lusaka, and not regard them as a social menace. Any heavy handed approach to remove them will not work and will be a recipe for disaster.
Street vendors are sharp businessmen and women whose conventional attitude to business defies logic.
They have long realised that there is more profit to be made by trading on the streets than being restricted to a designated market.
The streets are where customers are found, those men and women who commute from the various residential areas to their work places, passing through the city centre.
These do not have time to walk to a market to buy vegetables and other necessities. The vendors bring the items to the streets to ease their burden.
Local Government and Rural Development, Garry Nkombo has stirred a hornet’s nest, with his recent directive that all street vendors in Lusaka must move to designated markets.
From the explanation given by Mr Nkombo, it appears that street vendors in Lusaka have no reason to be plying their trade from the streets.
This is because the city has more than enough trading spaces at the existing markets, that Government has established that there are 5, 000 empty stalls around town.
Mr Nkombo says there are enough trading places in Lusaka to a point where street vending stops to make sense,
His office has established that the capital city has about 5, 000 empty trading places in town therefore those insisting on wanting to be on the streets don’t make sense.
Mr Nkombo, appearing on ZNBC Morning Live programme said it is sad that traders in Lusaka were causing confusion by choosing to leave the markets which are designated areas of business to go and trade in the undesignated areas such as the streets.
“I want us not to forget and this is the statement of fact I want to give the nation, that Lusaka doesn’t have a shortage of trading places, we established that at Soweto market we have 5, 000 empty trading places,” he said.
Moreover, removing street vendors might improve cleanliness in the city centre.
And from the response given by street vendors, the perennial cat and mouse game between the government and street vendors will continue what with neither side prepared to give in.
Those trading from the streets insist that there are not enough market stalls at the established markets hence their being forced to be on the streets.
Street vending in Zambia is not a new phenomenon, it has been there since from the UNIP days, through MMD, PF and now the UPND.
Through the years, the vendors have realised they are a strong political force hence previous administrations have had to think through their actions and somehow contain them.
President Frederick Chiluba even had a Vendors’ Desk at State House. The PF also somehow managed to keep peace with the vendors.
The UPND administration might have the law on its side but it ought to realise that it would be political suicide to use force against them.
There have been suggestions that the authorities should introduce certain areas in the city where street vending could be allowed.
It would be the most practical thing to do rather than engage in a war of atttition over street vending.