Despite earlier threats not to leave the streets, vendors in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe were on Thursday taken unawares by heavily armed police officers who forced them not to display their wares.
A tour around the city streets on Thursday revealed that most vendors have gone back to the Tsoka Flea Market, but could not display their wares due to lack of space.
Vendors interviewed at the market said they were taken unawares and resorted not to fight the police because they were armed.
“We indeed said that we will not leave the streets but looking at how heavily armed the police were, there was nothing we could do other than just to leave,” said Sandram Timutha, a second-hand clothes seller.
Another vendor, John Basiano, said some of his colleagues were arrested and taken to Area 3 Police Station for disobeying the officers.
This reporter saw two vendors being handcuffed for selling potatoes in sacks hidden in a carton.
Central Region Police spokesperson John Namalenga confirmed in an interview that vendors who disobeyed orders were arrested and would be taken to court.
Lilongwe City Council public relations officer Tamara Chafunya said the operation to rid the streets of vendors was necessary because cases of theft have been on the rise and there was no sanity.
The issue of vending in the city streets has always been a difficult one for government to deal with since the country adopted multiparty in 1992.
However, during the regime of the late Bingu wa Mutharika, vendors were cleared off the streets.