Hawkers stationed at the Kazungula Mall have accused their Zambian counterparts of unfair and illegal trade practices that disadvantages them.
This as most of the informal sector in Chobe import products from Zambia and utilise the mall area as a selling point because it has a huge market concentration. However, their biggest concern is that some Zambians smuggle the same products and sell them at the same area at lower prices hence the locals incur losses.
This surfaced during the Business Botswana consultative meeting held in Kasane on Tuesday.
According to the local hawkers, the reason why the Zambians sell their products at a cheaper price was because they do not pay any tax while the locals have to incur transports costs and tax charges to import the products from Zambia. In addition, they are also required to have a Hawkers and Street Vendors license that comes at a fee.
One of the disgruntled hawkers, Naledi Rugugu lamented that their concerns have not been heeded by bye-law officers and the police, as no action has not been taken. She accused the law enforcement officers of being in cahoots with Zambians hence their failure to act.
Another vendor, Sitali Abraham claimed that at one point he witnessed an incident in which the law enforcement officers were assisting the Zambians to cross the goods to Botswana illegally.
“These illegal sellers give us a very tough competition because of their unfair practices, we are not making any profit from our businesses, some of us took loans from CEDA and it is very difficult for us to service those loans,” he decried.
Nomsa Kubee, accused some local hawkers for conniving with the Zambians in these illegal practices by selling the products on their behalf. She said it makes it so difficult to control the situation while other Batswana are aiding illegal traders.
She claimed tha law enforcers don’t act on their reports because some are relatives with the locals who are aiding Zambians to illegally sell their products in Botswana. She stressed that some locals masquerade as business owners fronting for foreigners in locally reserved businesses.
Kubee lamented that they operate unprofitable businesses which has also negatively affected their livelihoods. She has since challenged law enforcement officers to conduct operations and confiscate illegal goods.
“By-law officers should play their part and do inspections to check proprietorship of businesses whether they are locally owned,” she said further urging Batswana to also prioritize buying from locals to sustain their businesses.
For his part, the Chairman of Business Botswana in Chobe David Sebodile assured that they will engage with the Chobe District Council and other relevant stakeholders to discuss the issue with them.
He urged the hawkers to form an association that would advocate for their challenges to be addressed. He also urged the hawkers to report to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship because foreigners are not allowed to operate the informal sector businesses as they are reserved for citizens only.
Reached for comment Kazungula Police Station Commander, Superintendent Phetogo Philimon said though they have not received such reports he however cannot rule out the possibility of it happening due the closeness of the mall to the Zambian border.
He revealed that they had previously seized some vegetables from hawkers which were suspect to have been smuggled from Zambia following the ban on importation of some vegetables. Philimon has since assured that they will keep an eye on the situation by making regular patrols.
For his part, Chobe District Council Chairman Chimney Mululwani said their Bye-Law Office has also not received any report or concern from the local hawkers. He said they always make regular patrols at the mall to ensure that there are no illegal trading practices taking place. Mululwani assured that their officers are trained to abide by the law therefore they cannot back up any illegal trading issues.