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Dealing with illegal vending

Written by  Wisdom Ngwira
Open defiance - vendors igonore a warning  against sell of merchandise along M1 Road, Pic by Wisdom Ngwira -Mana Open defiance - vendors igonore a warning against sell of merchandise along M1 Road, Pic by Wisdom Ngwira -Mana

Mzuzu, March 14, 2019: For Agnes Manda, 38, paying market fees daily to Mzuzu City Council (MCC) from her vegetable and fruit business has been something she does not want to miss.

“Every day, whenever I have come to do my vegetable and fruit business, I make sure that I keep money to pay to the council as market fees,” she says.

Manda says she feels it is her duty as a responsible citizen to pay the market fees because the council uses the money to provide various social services in the city.

She, however, complains that from the past few years, she has been struggling to pay the market fees due to dwindling of her business.

“We pay K150 daily to the council as market fees but, of late, this amount has proven to be difficult to source because business has gone down,” Manda says.

She attributes the downturn to stiff competition from vendors who sell goods similar to hers in undesignated places.

Manda says the illegal vendors ply their trade in the streets where they easily catch customers’ attention.

“Many customers prefer buying from street vendors for convenience as they find it hard to go inside the markets and shops,” she says.

She adds that street vendors lower prices of their goods but still make profits because they do not pay market fees.

“We are not selling much because buyers no longer come into the market. They buy from the street vendors,” Manda says.

Mzuzu City Market vendors’ chairperson Scrivina Dzonzi shares Manda’s sentiments and bemoans loss of business.

“It is very frustrating for us to be paying market fees daily to the city council while our colleagues who do their businesses in undesignated areas are not paying anything.

“We are struggling to make money because of the same illegal vendors who authorities seem to have let free despite not generating revenue from them,” the chairperson says.

Dzonzi adds that his committee complained to city council to take the illegal vendors out of streets, but to no avail.

“Every time they are chased from the streets, they quickly return. This is very frustrating to vendors plying their trade inside the market where the council collects market fees daily,” Dzonzi says.

But for Roziby Kaira, a street vendor in plastic kitchen utensils within Mzuzu City’s Central Business District (CBD), shortage of space at designated markets, fuels illegal vending.

She says it is bizarre for many people to be in a small area which is not even enough for the ones that are already there.

“All of us cannot fit in Zigwagwa Market; that’s why we opt for the streets.

“The city council says we should occupy the New Flea Market, but there are a number of issues that ought to be done before we go there,” Kaira says.

Among them, she bemoans lack of feeder road for both vendors and customers to access the market with ease.

Mzuzu City Council Public Relations Officer McDonald Gondwe says the council is losing millions of kwachas in uncollected revenue from those that trade in the streets.

“Our city bylaws forbid the council from collecting market fees from vendors who ply their trade in undesignated areas,” Gondwe says.

He says about 70 percent of vendors in the city do their trade illegally which is a big loss to the council in terms of revenue collection.

“Our records show that we only collect revenue from less than 30 percent of vendors which means we are losing a lot of money which could have been used to cushion us from other bills,” he says.

Gondwe adds that on a daily basis, the council collects at least K360, 000 from its main market, saying the amount could increase if all vendors were in designated sale points.

He bemoans that apart from not paying market fees, illegal street vendors bring untidiness in the city.

MCC acting director of administration Christopher Phiri counts the economic losses incurred to chase the vendors out of streets.

“The council hired about 296 police officers from 2 to 14 September last year at a daily fee of K3000, which translates to over K1 million.

“To be fair this is not healthy considering a number of economic challenges the council is facing as our financial base is not that broad,” Phiri says.

He, however, assures the nation that the council will not relent and let the vendors continue plying their trade in the streets.

But a resident of the city Zizwani Mhango feels the never-ending battle between the council and street vendors could be stopped by the buyers.

He says if people can stop buying from the streets and always patronise market places, the illegal vendors will be forced into the markets.

“As buyers, we should realise that street vending is bad and contributes to littering of the city.

“If we can all start buying commodities from shops and market places, the vendors will move out of the streets,” Mhango says.