Vendors who were given temporarily relief to settle on Civil Aviation land close to Mzuzu Airport after the Matabwa Market was gutted down by fire are refusing to move into the newly constructed flea market.
Instead, the vendors have started building brick shops, a move which has triggered disagreements between Mzuzu City Mayor and his parliamentarian.
The vendors claim they are constructing brick shops as a mechanism to prevent fire that has been gutting down their shops at Matabwa Market.
The council has warned that the vendors would be evicted because they are constructing illegal structures and they are supposed to occupy a newly-constructed flea market.
However, the vendors are defiant, arguing they were allocated the place by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration in 2006.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Mzuzu City, Leonard Njikho, and Mzuzu City Mayor, William Mkandawire, have clashed over the vendors’ position.
Njikho has thrown his weight behind the vendors while Mkandawire has threatened to evict the vendors because the land belongs to the Civil Aviation authorities and is close to Mzuzu Airport.
The bad blood between the vendors and the council manifested this week when Njikho toured the Matabwa Market to console the vendors following the fire that gutted part of it two weeks ago.
The vendors expressed their anger at the council and vowed to fight back if there would be any attempts to evict them.
During the meeting with Njikho, vendors chairperson for Matabwa Market, Gerald Maulana, told the council to put its hands off the issue.
“Since we came to this place, we have developed the land ourselves and the city has not done anything. We have built the market shops and we are now renovating the shops from wooden to brick structures to prevent fires. The city has never provided any services to this market and yet they collect revenue from us. There are no toilets, water, drainages and what have you. It has been solely our responsibility to develop the land and when fire gutted part of the market, they did not help out,” said Maulana.
He said the newly-launched flea market, which the council wants them to move into, was too small to accommodate 4, 000 vendors.
However, Njikho sympathised with the vendors in an interview.
“These people need to be taken care of. Nobody can just wake up one day and kick them out without providing an alternative place. Government talks of decentralisation so the conflicts between the council and the vendors will not solve the problem. We want development and not politics. We need to work together.”
However, Mkandawire insisted that the vendors would be evicted because they were temporarily given the place as they were waiting for the construction of a new flea market.
“The market was opened this year but they do not want to move in. We only collect revenue from 500 vendors but there are 4, 500 vendors. Those outside the flea market are not registered. That market place is within the Civil Aviation premises and close to the airport,” said Mkandawire.
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