Not only the financial need should come in mind when becoming a vendor in the streets of Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre but also the physical strength of legs to carry you faster when you encounter Blantyre City Council (BCC) officials who prohibit selling goods in undesignated places.
BCC signed a bylaw on vending that witnessed selling of goods in the streets of the city being illegal.
Though it was signed, the bylaw is yet to be effective, as vendors are reported not to be abiding by the law that was meant to have a desirable city, a city that is smart and in which selling goods on the streets is disallowed.
The BCC engaged Malawi Police officers to ensure the effectiveness of the law, but that is yet to be achieved as vendors continue defying the bylaw.
Through Police intervention on the effectiveness of the bylaw, vendors get arrested and their goods are confiscated if they are found selling in the streets though this is not a measure enough to stop from selling in Blantyre city streets.
But why selling in streets?, Ganizani Petrol who sells boiled Irish potatoes popularly known as “Zibwente” disclosed that city streets provide a competitive market for them to quickly sell whatever goods they have.
“For my business, I need to walk in the streets to meet more customers, I do meet people walking and they are hungry, they have no choice if they see me carrying these potatoes but to buy from me,” said Petrol.
Petrol’s sentiments were concurred by Mary Phiri who lives in Machinjiri and sells raw cassava. She explained not having enough sales while in the markets than in the forbidden streets.
“Even the price differ when we are in the streets, many people who are rich in the city don’t like going to local markets they prefer buying from shops like Shoprite though goods are very expensive than local markets, so when we meet them in streets carrying same goods they buy at an expensive price, we try to give a reasonable price that they feel is cheap as they compare to the shops while to us we make double profits,” explained Mary.
The explanations that these two gave justified that city streets are viable for business and for a business minded person, walking with goods in the streets is the only way to see growth of business and get the desired achievement in life.
But authorities still insist that vending in the streets is punishable by law as the practice fuels cases of theft since streets become a hub of thieves due to overcrowding.
BCC spokesperson Anthony Kasunda said the council will not give in to the vendors who are defying the bylaw.
“Although the council uses resources such as fuel among others, it will do anything possible to make sure that the bylaws governing the city of Blantyre are enforced. The exercise will continue until the last vendor is out of the street,” said Kasunda.
He further blamed the residents for fuelling illegal vending by buying goods from them in the city streets.
“The residents of Blantyre hold the key to this illegal practice, if all the residents can resolve to stop buying from street vendors. The vendors go on the streets because there are customers,” added Kasunda.
Though Limbe Market chairperson Davie Makuluni faulted vendors in the streets, he sympathized with them arguing they get harsh treatment from authorities once caught in the streets.
“Their goods get confiscated, and most of them do get the money on loan and they fail to pay back,” said Makuluni in interview with Malawi24.
It might be a relation of cat and rat between vendors in the streets and BCC authorities as they differ due to the bylaw but both can be on the same page, as Kasunda and Makuluni shared same sentiments that “all stakeholders need to join hands for the effectiveness of the bylaw”.