By Mandy Potani
Following protracted running battles between street vendors, police and city council authorities in Lilongwe, President Lazarus Chakwera has said government is geared to make the country’s cities cleaner and orderly. He said, in his fifth address last night, that his administration is committed to finding lasting solutions to the vendors’ grievances which force them to ply their trade in undesignated places.
Chakwera bemoaned the contentious relationship between the vendors and state actors, adding it points to a long standing problem which has to be addressed.
“…these running battles between city authorities and street vendors have become a yearly staple, which is clearly a sign that we need a more lasting solution to the problems our street vendors need us to solve… As I understand it, the street vendors feel aggrieved every time they are forcefully removed from unauthorised places, and so when it happened again this week, they marched to the City Councils [offices] to have their grievances heard,” he said.
Despite commending the vendors for presenting their concerns peacefully to the council and the latter in turn attending to the grievances, Chakwera said Malawi as a nation should bear responsibility for the mess that goes on in the country’s cities, thereby compromising hygiene, sanity and beauty.
“We need to be honest with ourselves and each other by accepting that we are all partly to blame for the fact that our cities are in disarray. The streets of our cities are not properly or regularly cleaned…we are not all pulling together in the same direction to create for our country the kind of cities that can be said to be modern, or organised, or beautiful,” he added.
The President has since announced that he will host three strategic conferences with councillors of the country’s major cities in an effort to ensure that council authorities are supported in all their work. Sweeping exercises to drive vendors out of the streets and sidewalks to designated places has in recent years faced resistance in the cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre with the traders raising concern of hostility and inadequate space.