Illegal vendors ‘capture’ Maseru streets

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Intersection of Pitso Road and Market Road

By Seleoe Nonyane

Lack of space for street vendors to sell their products compels them to find an operation space of their own and work from those areas which are not designated for market use.

This can be seen at the Maseru market area where hundreds of street vendors have settled with the aim of selling their goods with some of them trading with the municipal permits.

They attribute this to the fact that those authorized to award them with space particularly the Maseru City Council (MCC) fail to do so on time and therefore have no choice but to find space individually in order to be able to earn a living and provide for their families.

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Thabo Tlali of Ha Tṧiu in Maseru, told this publication that he opted to sell his products at the undesignated place along Phamola Road in the Cathedral Area as he was evicted from his original spot.

He said he has visited the MCC on numerous occasions to inquire on whether he sought to be awarded space somewhere legally so that he could sell his goods. However, it has been a long and unfruitful journey.

“No one placed me here but I placed myself at this spot because I have nowhere else to sell my goods. I have visited the MCC asking for a placement but until today I have had no answer to my plea and because I have to eat, I decided to place my goods here and sell them although it is illegal,” he noted.

“I got removed from my first placement together with others and therefore, after being removed we were not offered another space so we had to find one on our own where there is a market,” he said.

Tlali raised an issue that one of the contributing factors to a lacking “space is because some of the street vendors have been awarded more than one space.”

He claimed: “It has come to our attention that in some cases, one street vendor owns more than one trading spot and this is not fair to us with no space at all because we could be allowed to feel in there.”

He urged for a reversal of the practice where one vendor is allocated more than one spot. Saying that would enable a broadened availability of trading areas and avoid being evicted by the city council.

Another street vendor Mosiuoa Lecheko said that he is aware that selling on his current spot along Market Road is illegal but said he has no other alternative but has to put food on the table.

“I am aware of the illegality of selling here because we have been notified and chased away by the MCC on countless occasions. However, we always find a way to come back because we need to provide for our families.

“It was just last week when MCC and the police chased us away but we are back operating until we are removed again. We are really desperate to find a good placement where we are not interfering with anyone and will be able to work in peace without any fear of being evicted.

When commenting on the matter, the public relations manager for MCC ‘Makatleho Mosala admitted to theReporter that MCC did not allocate the places occupied by the vendors who are trading there without permission.

She noted a shortage of suitable areas to be earmarked for the vendors to freely sell their goods.

She said sometimes initiatives are undertaken to evict the vendors as the law does not allow them to sell at the unallocated areas but that they return to the places even after evictions.

“It becomes very difficult for us to always chase them away because of our limited budget. The town is small and there is nowhere where we can place them. This matter is bigger than MCC. We need other ministries to intervene in order to beat this crisis.

“In the case of street vendors who own more than one place we have asked them to notify us of such people so that we can deal with them,” she said.

Mosala said this act is not allowed and that rightfully, a street vendor is only allowed to own just one designated space to sell goods.

These vendors sell commodities such as clothing, vegetables, fruits, food takeaways and bedcovers. The unauthorized practice has gone unabated so much that some of the roads and streets are virtually impassable, especially at the Maseru market area near the Cathedral Area.