Vendors in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe, are expected to return to designated trading areas Monday morning, whereas minibus touts have been banned from bus terminals.
The vendors have been given seven days for the relocation.
At a joint press briefing held at Lilongwe Civic Centre on Sunday, the Lilongwe Vendors Association, the Central Market Kaunjika Sellers, the Central Region Minibus Operators Association, the Lilongwe Bus Depot Pieceworkers (ganyu) grouping, police and city council officials said the vendors will only be allowed to operate in designated areas.
In reference to recent attacks on women in the city, the vendors association chairperson, Steven Malunga, said: “The name that was tainted was that of vendors. I offer an apology to all women who were attacked in the name of vendors. We respect them [women]. They are our customers and we will be vigilant that such an unfortunate incident should not happen again,”
He said customer safety will be the priority of all associations and he appealed to the public to buy only from designated places. Malunga said doing so will discourage some people from plying their trade in the streets. The chair said there are enough spaces across all markets in the city.
“By next week Monday, Lilongwe should be clean, women should be able to go to any place. Let all vendors hear my plea and return to their places. Vendors who came to do business should abide by this new agreement,” said Malunga, adding that there will soon be registration of all legitimate vendors.
Kachitsa Banda, chairperson for the vendors, said the association was concerned with reports that people were being attacked and robbed. He said with immediate effect, all touts are no longer allowed to operate from minibus areas.
Said Banda: “Drivers found at wrong places and those using touts will all be arrested. We are human beings, I have girls, sisters and parents. As minibus operators, we cannot allow to lose our business because of criminals hiding in our terminals. With immediate effect, touts should vacate our places. Those whose minibuses [will be found] parking in wrong places will have their permits revoked.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to Banda, minibus crews will have uniforms to distinguish Ã¢â‚¬Å“thugsÃ¢â‚¬Â from business operators.
The pieceworkers chairperson, Myson Beaton, said the attacks on women have scared away people, a development that is affecting their livelihood as business volumes have reduced.
National Police spokesperson Dave Chingwalu said the police will enforce all the applicable laws to ensure that order returns to the city.
He said police engaged all business associations who have given the law-enforcers a go ahead to clean the cities of loafers and criminals.
Director of economic affairs at the Lilongwe City Council, Yohane Nyanja, said the city has designated trading places and it will not allow anybody to go and operate in the streets.
In recent weeks, Lilongwe has been a hot-spotÃ¢â‚¬â€with clashes involving vendors on one hand and the police and city council authorities on the other. The bone of contention has been trading space, with some vendors claiming President Bingu wa Mutharika told them to freely trade at any place of their choice. The City Council refuted these claims.