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Council faces off with informal traders

 

Bereng Mpaki

THE Maseru City Council (MCC) has vowed to evict informal traders operating in front of Fairways Plaza along Kingsway Street after the traders defied the municipality’s deadline for them to vacate the area.

However, the vendors have in turn struck a defiant tone, saying they would stay put until the MCC has “fulfilled its promise” to build street market stalls for them.

The 28 informal traders, who mostly sell clothing and footwear, were given an ultimatum by the MCC to vacate the area on Thursday last week. This was after the Fairways Plaza management were granted a court order compelling the MCC to evict the informal traders for obscuring the shopping complex to potential customers.

According to MCC spokesperson, Lintle Bless, the informal traders should have relocated in 2015 when construction of Fairways Plaza was completed.

Since then, she said, the council stopped renewing the informal traders’ permits.

“The vendors were allowed to operate from that area temporarily until the complex was erected. They were very much aware that they would have to evacuate when the complex was completed,” Ms Bless said, adding the council had earmarked two locations for the informal traders.

The MCC spokesperson said they would use force if necessary to implement the court order.

“We have been urging them to move on countless occasions but they have continued to defy us.

 “We have a court order from the management of the complex compelling us to remove the traders. Believe you me, we will remove them from that place,” she said, adding the blitz would be carried out throughout the city.

Ms Bless also indicated that most of the informal traders should be renting spaces in commercial building since “they were too large to be vendors”.

“Some of the traders generate more than M10 000 per month, which means they are liable to paying tax. Such vendors should not be operating from the streets but should rent space in commercial buildings. They are filling up the space for vendors who really need those areas,” she said.

Some of the designated market areas in Maseru include Sefika, Manonyane and Ha Mafafa.

However, Tšolo Lebitsa, the chairperson of the informal traders’ representative body, Khathang Tema Baitšukuli (KTB), told the Sunday Express this past week they would not budge. KTB is an association that represents the interests and rights of informal traders especially those operating on the streets of Maseru.

“We see this move as an attempt to intimidate us by the management of the complex who are feeling the strain of competition by our traders,” said Mr Lebitsa.

He said the MCC had promised to build market stalls for the informal traders, but was yet to deliver on its promise.

 “We are still waiting for MCC to fulfil its promise of erecting market stalls on the streets, which they made over five years ago. Unless that happens, we are not going anywhere,” Mr Lebitsa said. 

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