The looming eviction of Street vendors operating from Maun’s Old Mall seems to be a political hot potato for the North West District Council (NWDC) ahead of the upcoming 2024 general elections.
While the issue of the informal sector traders having overcrowded the mall especially by the parking spaces is a cause of concern for the local authority, the council leadership is reportedly delaying to act because of councilors’ fears that it will work against them during the upcoming general elections.
With the eviction and relocation of the vendors among the top solutions council is reportedly considering to resolve the congestion, some councilors from across the political divide are reportedly cautious that with the elections looming this may be political suicide as it will infuriate the hawkers.
The said concerned councillors argue that the council leadership delayed in addressing the matter warning that the timing now may not be politically right to deal with it.
Speaking during the Stanbic Bank and NWDC Business Breakfast Seminar held in Maun on Wednesday, a representative of the informal sector traders, Mmabontle Samuel acknowledged they are not organised in Mall, admitting that it is an eyesore, even to tourists.
She however indicated that all they ever wanted was to make living for themselves and their families.
Samuel has since suggested that council should consider them when mall layouts are being made by creating spaces where their stalls will be well placed. She highlighted that in other countries there are structures created for the street vendors which they occupy at a certain fee.
She opined that such structures could have been created by the open space near Nandos for the place to look tidy.
In response NWDC Deputy Chairman, Nico Folae said though council is concerned about the vendors’ overcrowding in the mall, it is difficult to enforce the eviction law, as they understand that the latter makes a living from where they operate. This he said is despite other members of the public complaining that the council may be failing to take responsibility in dealing with the situation.
“Understating that where you operate helps you take care of your children makes it difficult for us to enforce a law that will relocate you elsewhere or evict you and ask you to find another place for yourselves to operate at,” Folae stressed.
In an interview, Folae revealed that if there was an alternative place to relocate the vendors to, they could have long moved them.
He further confirmed that councilors from across the political divide however fear that the decision to evict the vendors will disadvantage them during the elections. According to Folae, councilors want the issue halted and be dealt with later after the elections. He however stated that council or government does not wait for elections when there is need to address any problem faced.
Meanwhile Folae revealed that the council chairman, Itumeleng Kelebetseng will soon embark on a benchmarking mission to some other councils in towns and see how they are able to manage the situation in their areas without conflicts rising between them and the vendors.
For his part, NWD Council Secretary, Motlogelwa Thuso shared the same sentiments that the issues of operational space are of great concern to them as council. Among their plans to address the problem he revealed that they intend to construct stalls at one of their open spaces located in new mall which he said will be rented to vendors at lower prices. He indicated that this could have long been done but it was delayed by legal conflicts they had with a certain contractor who was engaged for the job.