Lilongwe street vendors have been headlining Malawi media for quite some time and it doesn’t look like their name will be out of the news anytime soon.
There have been a few battles between street vendors and riot police, creating chaos in the city. Since moving their business onto the streets of Lilongwe, street vendors have been confronted by city council officials and police, advising them to vacate the streets and return to their original selling spots in the markets.
This week, Lilongwe will have to prepare for another showdown.
It all started after the recent attacks on some Malawian women who were not wearing long skirts. Street vendors in Lilongwe said their name was tarnished from being accused of such acts.
“We love women and we protect our women. We would never hurt them,” said Steven Malunga, the chairperson of the Vendors Association for Tsoka Market.
“After the women boycotted us because they heard we were the ones attacking them, business has not been the same and now street vendors left their spots in the market to sell their merchandise on the streets.”
Malunga said he wants to put an end to what he considers defamation of character to all street vendors by using a seven-day campaign.
“The campaign is a method to disassociate the street vendors from thugs who are the real culprits of the attacks,” said Malunga.
He said thugs selling their merchandise on the same streets were posing as street vendors. Street vendors and thugs were being categorized under one title – vendors.
A joint operation with police authorities, the Vendors Association and city council members decided to use the seven-day campaign to get street vendors who are selling their merchandise on the streets, back into the market. This way authorities are able to differentiate who are the real street vendors and who are not.
“We are looking for the original vendors. Not the fake vendors. I want the original vendors to go back to the market to trade their business,” said Malunga.
Justin, a street vendor selling his merchandise on the street said he heard about the seven-day campaign and said he does not intend to move back into the market.
“Business on the street has increased sale profits. Also, there is no space to accommodate all vendors in the market,” said Justin.
Malunga said if street vendors are not situated back into their designated posts, anything could happen. He used this example: “If a child doesn’t listen, what happens to them? They get punished.”
Justin and many other street vendors challenge to face any officials after the seven-day campaign is over.
“We will deal with them when the time comes,” said Justin.
The seven-day campaign will officially end this Monday. According to a message (written in Chichewa) that was posted on several trees in Old Town, the street vendors stand strong; they will not be moved!
A DEAD PERSON IS NOT YET KNOWN!
WE, STREET VENDORS,
LABORERS, GOODS-CARRIERS AND
WE HAVE AGREED NEVER TO VACATE
NOR LEAVE OUR WORK BECAUSE
THAT’S WHERE WE FIND OUR DAILY FOOD
WE ARE WARNING ALL THOSE THAT
HAVE BEEN PAID TO BETRAY US
AND ARE BEING LED BY MR. STEVEN MALUNGA.
WE ARE SAYING MR. MALUNGA IS NOT OUR VENDORS CHAIRMAN
BUT FOR DPP PARTY.
WE DON’T WANT TO CONFRONT ANYONE
BUT IF YOU START CONFRONTING US, MAKE SURE YOU STAND FIRM AND FINISH WHAT YOU HAVE STARTED.
BECAUSE IF YOU RETREAT, WE WILL FOLLOW YOU TO YOUR RESPECTIVE HOMES.
WE WILL DIE FOR OUR COUNTRY LIKE GADAFI
WHO ONCE SAID
FREEDOM IS BOUGHT BY BLOOD