Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Cage those night vendors

THE cat-and-mouse skirmishes that have characterised the relationship between the Lusaka City Council (LCC) and the tenacious street vendors are not only a drain on public resources but also a veritable nuisance.

It begs for a permanent solution.

The insistence by the vendors on defying the local authority, which has a constitutional and statutory mandate to maintain cleanliness and public health in the city, to mess up our capital city should be condemned by all.

The vendors have now resorted to invading the central business district in the evenings when they know the council and State police have knocked off.

As soon as the patrol trucks and vans the law enforcement officers have been using to round up the stubborn law-breakers are parked they begin pouring onto the streets with all kinds of merchandise.

Almost anything is on sale; from ready-to-eat food stuffs to household items.

In the morning the council cleaners have a torrid time to clear the tonnes of litter left by the night vendors.

This is not only making the city centre dirty but also posing a health hazard to members of the public.

The nation has not forgotten how cholera ravaged the capital city not long ago, forcing President Edgar Lungu to introduce drastic measures, including the deployment of the military, to contain the outbreak.

That should be avoided.           

Public health and epidemiology experts largely blamed street vending for the epidemic, which claimed lives.

The council has been spending a lot of money to keep the vendors off the streets, who do not see anything wrong with their costly behaviour.

This night vending is also a road safety hazard as the vendors are now competing for space with motor vehicles on the congested roads.

While we are aware that things are hard and that people need to have a source of livelihood, we don’t believe this should be used as a pretext for lawlessness.

The vendors’ argument that they are forced to trade on the streets because business is slow in the markets is laughable.

What about those law-abiding citizens who have been obediently trading from the designated markets and are able to meet the needs of their families?

Some of those marketeers trading legally at places such as the new perishables section of New Soweto Market, City Market and Munyaule Market are able to rent decent houses and send their children to school.

In fact there are more traders in the markets than the street vendors, which means there is business there.

The night street vendors are, therefore, just being naughty.

The LCC should ignore their lies and intensify the clampdown on them.

We agree with LCC public relations manager George Sichimba that the night vendors are responsible for the city centre’s dirtiness because they leave litter strewn everywhere after knocking off.

LCC should consider dividing the council and State police into two shifts. When one group is dismissed around 17:00 hours another should take over and knock off around 22:00 hours to handle the night vendors.

No vendors will dare sell after that time.

Let there be sanity in Lusaka’s CBD even in the evening.

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