Tension between North West District Council (NWDC) management and hawkers, which has been brewing for a long time, reached boiling point midweek when the hawkers were ordered to vacate the central business district (CBD) by 30 May 2020.
Hawkers who have been trading in the CBD for many years, said it is an insensitive decision by NWDC to want to evacuate them in this critical time when they are trying to recover from seven weeks of extreme social distancing.
A public notice by NWDC, says that by the 30th of May 2020, hawkers and street venders at old mall will be requested not to leave behind goods and others objects associated with their trade or leave their stall pitching materials in an unclean state where they trade. The statement further states that if the ‘stall directly or indirectly obstructs traffic in any public space or obstructs the use of any public space, such as road reserve, public parking or emergency exists and walks in’. it also states that ‘enforcement office or any authorized officer be instructed to remove his/her vehicle or his/her goods to such place as may be reasonably required, in order to discontinue such obstruction or danger’
The council also states that traders are to at all times keep a hygienic condition of all receptables, instruments and other articles used in the conduct of his or her trade.
Most of the hawkers are not amused with the council decision as they accuse the management for long plotting to remove them from operating at CBD area. Informal sectors operators decried that the council has long wanted to relocate them from their trading space.
Hawkers also stated that they are not comfortable with the council proposal to relocate them and to the proposed new places which they say it will not accommodate them as it will only accommodates 100 venders but they are more than 300 operating in the area.
They complain that the council has proposed that traders can alternate on a six months basis at the new traders find it. Traders says the proposal from the council is impractical and likened it to condemning them further into clutches of poverty.
A hawker who have been trading at old mall for more than 25 years, says he has been saddened by the council decision to remove them from their trading area in this critical time when they are just trying to make a living after being in lockdown for almost seven weeks.
A trader who preferred not to reveal identify, decried that while they were reeling from the impact of coronavirus which had affected their livelihoods, it was time for them to start again to cover up for them lost time but now they are faced with eviction orders. ‘Things are bad I have not been able to operate since we have been on lockdown, I was given a go ahead to operate but after two days I was told to shut down my business,’ decried a frustrated hawker.
A hawker further said their situation is worse as they have not even benefited from food relief program and they also have to pays the prepare for schools’ children since schools are reopening next week.
For his part, member of parliament for Maun East, Goretetse Kekgonegile is of the view that council must involve all stakeholders including parliamentarians in this issue. He says small businesses are very sensitive and livelihoods of so many families in the region given the high unemployment and poverty levels prevailing. He added that coronavirus and its extremely negative impact on tourism which is the lifeline of North West is a well-known fact. As parliamentarians we are willing to break the staff through availing funds to upgrade hawkers’ operations in the old mall, Kekgonegile said adding that it would be wise for council to deter the decision and allow consensus to emerge through stakeholder forum.
He however says the council management and council chairpersons are still in consultations on this matter. ‘We are still giving them time and we will come on board if needed,’ he said