Lizulu Market in Lilongwe is steadily turning itself into a one-stop market for fresh fruits and vegetables. It has successfully become a market for local small-scale fruit and vegetable growers who have generally suffered to find established markets for their produce.
Residents of all classes, from Cabinet ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, lawmakers and civil servants all come and buy fruits and vegetables from this market.
They all acknowledge that they are buying probably the freshest and tastiest veggies available in the city. But do authorities at the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) recognise the value of this market to the city coffers?
Do city officials collect any market fees at Lizulu from the vendors and farmers plying their trade at this market? What do they do with these market fees?
These questions come in once one looks at the poor infrastructure under which farmers and vendors are plying their trade.
Social analysts say Lizulu Market can be one of the most reliable revenue streams for LCC’s capital projects. So why is the market so neglected?
A study by Mtendere Organisation, a local citizens rights organisation, exposes serious gaps in a number of essential sectors in the city, including water, sanitation and hygiene.
The problems, according to the study are not necessarily unique to LCC market centres. They are also rampant in market centres under Blantyre City Council (BCC) such as Limbe, Mzuzu City Council (MCC) and Zomba City Council, not to mention of market centres operating under district and town councils.
Mtendere Organisation believes cities face these challenges because of policy decisions in the delivery of public services being made by government officials, politicians and few office-bearers without the involvement of the local citizens.
The organisation’s programmes manager Stanley Mantchichi says it is interesting that there is underdevelopment in market centres yet councils collect market fees each and every day in all these centres.
“Government officials have the monopoly of making decisions although they are not elected by the people. This has resulted in poor sanitation, delayed garbage collection, lack of proper toilets, cleanliness, and unavailability of water at the market premises (water disconnected due to unpaid bills) and poor market infrastructure including wiring systems that has resulted in frequent outbreak of fires,” he explains.
“Now, the traders were openly expressing their dissatisfaction at the situation and were seeking lasting solutions to their plight. The revenue collected in the markets is intended to be used in smooth running of the market in terms of sanitation as well as maintenance of the existing structures,” he adds.
These sentiments are shared by Lilongwe Vendors’ Association vice-secretary Joseph Matiki who condemned councils for “pressurising vendors to pay fees every day yet they cannot care about our welfare”.
Matiki said the council, as the landlord, is supposed to install all necessary water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to ensure they [vendors] are conducting their businesses in a safe environment.
“But unfortunately, our council has chosen not to carry out its mandate. Late collection of garbage in strategic locations in the market centres is another point of concern for us.
“It is posing a health risk to vendors and their customers as they can easily contract sanitation and hygiene-related diseases such as cholera, dysentery. But it would appear authorities at the councils do not care,” he narrated.
A trader in Kaliyeka Market, Sellina Joseph, said vendors, especially women, struggle to access toilets, with some arranging with owners of houses closer to the market so that they can be using their pit latrines.
“And if you are allowed to use private pit latrines, you are required to bring water from your home. It is very challenging to us,” said Joseph.
Mantchichi says the market trader’s life has been greatly affected with unavailability of basic services such as sanitation facilities in their business places.
He says of major concern is the fact that good intentions of the council to have water supply and toilets managed by private individuals are being marred by the unforeseen mismanagement on those private individuals who have turned the facilities into a financial capital raising machine.
“This turns out to have serious repercussions as toilets, which are supposed to have water supply all the time are then closed,” he emphasised, adding the situation needs a good redrafting of a plan by duty bearers in order to end it.
But there is hope. Newly-elected mayor for LCC, Desmond Bikoko, says his priority will be to change the face of the Capital City into a world-class city.
His vision included addressing water, sanitation and hygiene in market centres.
“As you are aware that most people have been complaining of the status of the Lilongwe City, it is my job now to ensure that this city is fully developed as a capital,” said Bikoko. n