More than 2 000 vendors lost property worth over K1.267 billion in recent market fire accidents in Mzuzu and Lilongwe, a ministerial committee set up to investigate the fires has said.
A report released by the committee, which was set up by President Peter Mutharika after fires destroyed Mzuzu Central Market and Tsoka Flea Market in Lilongwe onJuly 13 and July 29 respectively, also noted that carelessness and arson caused nine market fires that raged across Malawi over the past 10 years.
The report was unveiled by Local Government and Rural Development Minister Trasizio Gowelo, who chaired the six-member committee, at a press conference in Lilongwe on Friday.
Other members of the committee are Finance and Economic Development Minister Goodall Gondwe, Labour and Manpower Development Minister Henry Mussa, Trade and Industry Minister Joseph Mwanamveka, Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister Bright Msaka and Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Paul Chibingu.
“Since 2004, nine markets have so far been gutted by fire, including Lilongwe Tsoka Market (twice), Mzuzu Market (twice), Mzuzu Matabwa Market, Mzuzu Taifa Market, Mangochi Main Market, Balaka Main Market and Blantyre Main Market.
“In all the fire occurrences in the markets, no one has ever been arrested in connection with the same,” stated Gowelo, who had only Chibingu by his side.
He explained that the Mzuzu Central Market fire affected 1 149 vendors, who lost property estimated at K305 168 000, while the fire at the Tsoka Flea Market in Lilongwe affected 1 011 vendors, who lost property estimated at K961 937 425.
Gowelo said his committee had made several recommendations which government has already adopted.
Among the recommendations made, the committee called on police to finalise investigations and apprehend the culprits as a matter of urgency to deter would-be perpetrators from committing similar crimes.
The committee also asked the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to recapitalise the affected businesspersons by injecting some funds into the Enterprise Development Fund for disbursement as loans
It also advised that modern markets, with a capacity to contain city vendors, be constructed in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.
He said government resources to financially assist the vendors will be made available after Parliament passes the budget that is currently under debate.