By Risco Lumamezi
A group of poor informal small traders, making a living through selling on the streets of the town of Katima Mulilo have vowed to remove foreign vendors and take charge of the premises.
This was confirmed by the group representative Mr Simasiku Mulijani who is serving as the Chairperson of the Namibia Small Traders Association (NASTA) a watchdog organisation based in Katima Mulilo mandated by the Katima Mulilo Local Authority (KMTC) to process street vendors registration and intermediate between the council and street vendors.
“NASTA is not xenophobic but maintain law and order in the streets,” added Mr Mulijani, expressing fear that foreign vendors presence in the street has brought damages to the small economy of the local Namibians who do not have access to target places and some criminal activities around the streets are caused by foreign vendors.
“Our peaceful strategy is to inform them peacefully on their vending spots to vacate and never come back without business visas and working permits for this is illegal” noted Mr Mulijani.
“We are not xenophobic we agreed that they should be a slight discrimination even though the by-law takes away every body”
The association so far has achieved the Katima Mulilo Town Council’s recognition letter and still dissatisfied on their out cry to the petition letter which was handed over on August 5, last year during President Dr Hage Geingob’s public meeting held in Katima Mulilo.
“ We did not receive any response from the president, we only heard the responses from the governor which was relevant. The former CEO just don’t know why he said tomatoes are all over, we feel that street vending is for the poor people and the council is also contributing to dirtiness as they are no dustbins and foreigners should have work permits and student permits if they are students”
NASTA is also advocating for the compliance in recruiting and registering local Namibian vendors and removal of the foreign vendors as agreed in a meeting held on July 12, with the Katima Mulilo Town Council’s management Committee.
He also suggested “ you cannot just apply for working Visa, a foreigner should be allowed with passports to come and admire not that they are criminals, smugglers and bring dirty to our town without care.”
The street hawkers Association is currently having 300 registered members who are fully qualified Namibians and is hoping to expand to other towns of Namibia.
“ We are asking the authority to remove the unwanted people and we want formalisation to give place to our members” stressed Mr Mulijani.
“This exercise will make arrangement for our people and we cannot relocate our people before removing them “ said Mr. Castrow Muunda, Vice Chairperson.
He also added that very soon they would clean–up the street starting from Ngoma Boarder post to Engen Service Station in Katima Mulilo.
“ We will tell foreigners to leave the street and we will help them to park and go and they should never come back in the streets until when we will see that they come back to our country as investors, to come and employ our people” said Mr Muunda.
He further said foreign vendors should create employment to Namibians and he therefore called the Katima Council to look into the current tougher by-law to leave vending to the people since it is manageable for the poor people in promoting self-employment.
“ We don’t want competition with illegal immigrants, the crime has just increased because of foreign vendors, the town is dirty and foreigners are damaging our economy since they are taking our money outside they should apply for citizenship and we want to build our economy and they are paying no tax” noted NASTA Vice Chairperson.
However, probing the word on the streets, Ms Veronika Mabengano, a 48-year-old woman who has been selling her products on the streets for the last five years expressed happiness.
“Now there’s a change compared to previous years when we used to compromise… we are using the same price it depend on how you get your customers”
Ms Precious Simasiku (48) started street vending since 15 years ago shared her sentiments that “ the goodness of self employment is that I’m not hungry I pay my plot and tuition fees for my children”
She expressed dissatisfaction that “ the badness is that when the rain season comes I’m attacked by rain and when it is hot the sun is also destroying products”
A forty–three year old woman Ms Christina Limbindo a street hawker for 10 years has this to say “ I’m selling to get money to buy relish for my children and pay my bills for my plot and tuition fees for my children and I’m not troubling anybody ”
“The badness here is when the rain is raining and during summer time the sun is heating us this is also caused by KMTC as they used to chase us, but when we tell them to make for us a formal place like others they don’t do, ” said Ms Limbindo.
A male Vendor Mr Victor Masimba (39) told this paper that since 2001 he has been selling on the streets of Katima Mulilo revealed that “ I found difficulties with foreigners and my business is not going well, owners of the premises used to chase us out and we used to go under the trees… they say we are not supposed to sale here because they pay tax for this ”
Mr Masimba pointed out that the association (NASTA) representing them used to intervene with the business people to allow the street vendors in their premises.
“We want the Council to construct an Open Market for all street vendors, they are telling us to go to the sport complex where there is no toilet so how will we going to cope-up, we are also struggling to get the toilet by walking to the Open Market”
He further warned, “We want Katima Council to remove or chase the foreigners they are killing our businesses because they determine the cheap price whereas we don’t get customers, we are pleading our mayor and governor to organise for us the formal place we can sell our items”
He also boasted “ we are paying for our children’s school fees, plots and bills”
Ms Ngwala Bakaupi (25) who has been selling fast food on the streets since 2014 commented that “ I get what I want very easily if the business is booming, I also find difficulties with KMTC when we are chased out, I used to get N$ 700 per day if there’s business if not I get N$ 200.”
Asked how she is getting customers “it depends on the customers who know you, some they used to call me and sometimes I get loss when food is left”
Mr Aldrin Mahulilo, aged 44 started his street business since 2003, expressed concerns “ we have challenges with the police they are taking our things and take them nowhere some they use them especially T-Shirts.”
He added, “ in 2009 they provided us a place near Caprivi Senior Secondary School and there was just only iron pegs, not even roof on top or water and you cannot get any toilet facility, so why should we sit there without any shelter they should provided us a place where we can sell and the only place they provided us it is very far at the sports complex you can only get customers who live the shops and give us the change. There’s no town where they are no street vendors even in Europe and India, street vendor is for the poor and the government should take note of that we are paying bills to Katima Council with the money we are getting from the street and police officers they used to steal from us the T-shirts they wearing”
A Zimbabwean street vendor, Mr Shadie Thondhlana (40) has been selling his products in Katima Mulilo since 2005, told Caprivi Vision that “ we are facing a hatred from Namibians especially when you are a Zimbabwean, immigration, customs, KMTC and these guys they sit on the corner saying they don’t want us, they are open to say they don’t want foreigners while whites and Chinese are still there, our political situation if am here am not a foreigner am an African what is that is hatred, what is the motive behind we don’t have executive they are not there for us”
He also mentioned that in the past they was nobody who was selling in the streets of Katima Mulilo at the time when they started “they were doing nothing when we came here, the police, customs and immigration was supposed to do their work and we have been attending their meetings, but when it comes to the membership fees we are paying every month”
When quizzed for comment, Acting Chief Executive Officer for Katima Mulilo Town Council Mr. Lifasi Lilungwe responded that his council is still looking for proper channels in consultation with different stakeholders to remove foreign vendors.
“We do consultation with them, we know how can remove them, other than just come there and just chase them out it’s not called for and we do not condone that. We are trying to call meetings; so far we have already maybe two, one or two meetings concerning this issue together with the committee of street vendors, we had such type of a meeting, whereby we agreed that we must have a joint operation with them, immigration, customs, police and the town council.”
“So that we can have joint operation going in there and see who is who selling within our streets with genuine papers in our streets and who is selling without those papers, and in terms of street vendors and that’s when we can remove them or even arrest them and if you are selling those type of things and you are a foreigner you do not have permission to do so.”
“They have to arrest you, so a joint operation was suppose to take place before that activity which they wanted to do express and that thing is already in the pipe line”.
“Anytime soon the town council and the mayor we are going to call that joint venture on how we can clean our streets when it comes to foreign vendors who are doing it illegally, it’s not that maybe we are doing nothing about it, we are busy doing that but we have to be very careful where we are approaching the matter, it’s not something that you just wake up and do that, because you just let those people and you to tell them that go and do whatever you want to do that thing might even erupt, we have seen what happened in South Africa, so we don’t want that, we know that we are advocating for One Africa so we are brothers and sisters here, so we are not saying that we don’t want them to do that but as long you do it with the proper documentation we don’t have the problem with that.”
Mr. Lilungwe stressed that “Council is not sitting idle on this case; we are busy looking at legalities on how to handle this situation. And it’s not only foreign vendors it’s also our vendors who are in the streets. We are also looking at how we can move them from those places to designated places.”
“We have indentified places where we need to move them unlike the way they are now there are just scattered in the whole town, where ever you go you see are vendors, in front of shops and everywhere, that’s not the way it supposed to be. So we have Identified places, it’s still in town but they need to be at those places not everywhere in town and we are also busy doing a research for those street vendors whom we need to take those places.”
“That place is still a wonderful place that we have earmarked, and if I may ask you where they are now do they have toilets, where these vendors are operating right now? What we are saying, that’s why they are called street vendors because they are just selling where ever they find, so that’s why council is trying its level best to remove them in those places because council is planning to put facilities there.”
The Acting CEO further promised the concerned street vendors to be patient“ We are planning to put facilities close to Katima Secondary School and another facility close to Kalinkie, they are almost four places we have identified where we want to move to provide for them, where they are right now council cannot provide such type of facilities, because those are private business, like for example if there are selling in front of Shoprite that’s a private facility, they are selling in front of Hisham, so we want to move them from there and put them where council wants them to be, then we can provide them with water and toilets”