There was drama at Mzuzu Central Market on Monday when vendors ignored a K7 million cheque from President Peter Mutharika meant to compensate 460 vendors who were affected by fire that gutted their property in October this year.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, presented the cheque on behalf of Mutharika to the vendors’ president James Kasambala.
As Nankhumwa announced that the money would be shared among 222 vendors with each getting K31 000 and that the money would be deposited into the Mzuzu City Council’s account, the vendors walked away, leaving behind ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) women and youth who had accompanied the minister.
“I have come to condole you vendors of Mzuzu following the fire that destroyed your properties in October. I would have come earlier but you will agree with me that in the same month seven markets [were gutted] and everybody in government was confused with such accidents. Now I have come with a cheque for K7 million as condolence from President Mutharika. I hope it will help you as you re-establish yourselves,” said Nankhumwa.
But speaking in a separate interview with The Daily Times, Kasambala said many vendors were not happy because the money was too little as compared to the property that was destroyed.
Kasambala said vendors preferred loans.
“We are happy that government has given us the money but to be honest vendors do not want such little cash. They want loans so that they can finish reconstructing their shops and also use it as capital. A vendor is always happy with capital not handouts.
“That is why you saw their faces were down after the minister announced the figure. Vendors have nothing to sell. The little money they kept before the accident finished. No bank has shown interest to give them loans. Their hope was government. Let Mutharika know that we want loans,” said Kasambala.
He added: “This money will give us a lot of problems. The actual number of affected vendors are 460 not 222. We do not know what we are going to do with the other remaining affected vendors. That is why we are saying loans are better. It is not much. It is in the range of K50 000 to K1 million. Can the government not afford that?” questioned Kasambala.
Mzuzu City Member of Parliament, Leonard Njikho, praised the DPP government for the money, saying the compensation showed that it was a caring government.
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