Displaced vendors mull court action

FamCast News
a month ago


‘Mantšali Phakoana

Dozens of vendors displaced by the ministry of public works and transport and the Maseru City Council (MCC) along Moshoeshoe Road in the city during a clean-up campaign this week have vowed to approach the court for redress.

The government crackdown which saw about 180 businesses removed from their spots along pavements around the Sefika area has enraged the vendors, who claim that they were not consulted before the action was taken.

They said the ministry and the council failed to take their rights and contribution to the country’s economy into consideration.

They also accuse the government of displacing them without notifying them and giving them a chance to vacate the area, resulting in them losing their wares during the demolition of their shacks.

The chairperson of Khathang Tema Baitšukuli Association, a civil society movement working to serve the informal sector with focus on street vendors, Tšolo Lebitsa, said there has never been engagement between its members or their representatives and the MCC or the ministry of public works.

Lebitsa indicated that lack of communication between MCC and street vendors or their representatives has always been a problem.

“We did not know that vendors would be displaced because no one involved us in any form of consultations or meeting, not even MCC. However, we are not surprised because our relations have never been good. There is always been lack of communication between MCC and Khathang Tema.

“We are yet to establish how many vendors lost their products. I’ve only confirmed cosmetics and traditional herbs shacks that were destroyed with products inside, and the plan is to compile all the information and file a court case claiming losses,” Lebitsa noted.

On the other hand, the ministry’s public relations officer, Nozesolo Mpopo, said the vendors were removed to pave a way for the ongoing rehabilitation works on Moshoeshoe and Kofi Annan Roads. The project commenced in February last year and it will be completed in February 2025.

The M283,521,859.05 project awarded to UNIK Construction Botswana Pty Ltd will be carried out in two phases.

According to Mpopo, the project is aimed at enhancing traffic flow and road safety on the two major Maseru city bypasses. It will also formalise the Seputana cross junction and help address parking problems at various intersections along the Kofi Annan Road.

The rehabilitation of the two roads by the Roads Directorate is part of building enabling infrastructure to stimulate private sector investment for inclusive growth and job creation, which is the Key Priority Area III as set out in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II).

The project involves milling and resurfacing of the entire project road, repairing of base layer failures through excavation, and reusing of the existing asphalt surface.

Mpopo said the campaign follows a series of preparedness meetings and warnings between the ministry and vendors through their representatives, as well as the MCC.

The works will also include repairing existing potholes, edge breaks, and cracks. They will also improve storm water drainage systems by constructing new subsoil drains, cleaning and inspecting concrete culverts, replacing selected side-drains, and increasing culvert sizes.

Other ancillary works entailed in the project scope are provision of new edge beams, removal and replacement of damaged guardrails, reinstatement of road signs and road markings to improve visibility and safety.

“We did not just displace those vendors. We had several meetings with their representatives and MCC, preparing them to vacate the area. We were hoping that by now they would have moved already not wait to be displaced.

“We also made several warnings when we moved around that area with loud speakers informing them that the time had arrived for them to move to make way for the roads project,” Mpopo pointed out.

She also noted that the MCC had given the vendors alternative areas to operate from.

“Now that the construction is in progress, we had to assist the contractor to move the shacks in order for the work to be done accordingly. This is phase one of the work. Phase two will commence along Kofi Annan through Maseru Mall to Masianokeng. We are already pleading with vendors operating within those areas to co-operate as we will be engaging them,” she added.

Economic commentator, Lereko Teleko said creating a conducive environment for informal sectors like street vending is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach.

Teleko said the government should recognise the informal sector’s economic contributions to the country and regulate it accordingly, including providing permits or designating specific areas for vending.

City planning should take into account the needs of the informal sector, such as designing public spaces that accommodate street vendors without obstructing traffic or pedestrians, he explained.

“It is also important to provide skills trainings that can help informal sectors to improve their business operations and financial literacy, increasing their potential for success.

“The government should consider extending social protection programmes to informal workers. This can provide a safety net for this vulnerable population.

“Overall, addressing this issue requires a holistic approach that brings together all stakeholders, from government and city planners to informal workers themselves. The goal should be to create an enabling environment where informal workers can operate safely and sustainably while also contributing to the broader economy,” Teleko noted.

For her part, MCC public relations manager, ‘Makatleho Mosala said the municipality had issued temporary permits to 122 vendors whose shacks were displaced around Sefika area alongside Moshoeshoe Road during the campaign, while 58 had no permits.

The council has also called on the displaced street vendors to apply for permits to operate from the Local government market (Sakeng), Metro-stop, Thibella and Lepoqong Bus-stop until July 15 this year.

Mosala added that the MCC has issued temporary permits to about 7000 vendors in the city on conditions that they do not barricade development projects.