Maun Sub District Council (MAA) has suspended eviction of hawkers and street vendors who are littering Maun’s old mall for at least six months or until they prepare a paved market for such businesses.
According to the council, at least around 600 street vendors occupy the mall illegally.
Senior bylaw officer at MAA, Phemelo Matome said this has made the outlook of the mall untidy, filthy, unhygienic and unsafe.
“Some of them cook right on the pavement using cooking gas. They boil oil that splatter around on the pavement, which can cause accidents. Some have put their stalls closer to the road such that they obstruct traffic,” explained Matome, who was trying to get a buy-in of the politicians to allow them to commence the eviction.
On his side was MAA’s deputy council secretary, Mogomotsi Seemule who said it was important that the eviction is done now rather than later as more squatters were increasingly erecting stalls around the mall.
“If we do not do it now, it may be difficult to do it in the future. The more we wait, the more squatters will come in and we will end up overwhelmed by this,” Seemule chimed in.
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She explained that already at the bus rank they have built 193 stalls, allocated them and the owners were ready to move in.
Of the 600 vendors around Maun’s old mall, about six are licensed to operate from there, but as the bylaw tries to execute the eviction, they clash with the interests of politicians who fear political repercussions.
In fact the eviction could have taken place last year according to MAA, but “it was delayed because of elections.”
Commenting on the matter, Boro-Senonnori councilor, Kenson Kgaga cautioned that, “We should be very careful when you see some people sweating and pushing an agenda, which they did not push before elections.”
MAA council chairperson, Vepaune Moreti admitted that the eviction matter is a hot potato that needed to be handled with care as their opponents may use it as a political campaign subject. His contention was that many people might fail to understand that what the council wants to do is to “re-arrange” and not evict.
Most of the councilors were of the view that the eviction can be done, but gradually to allow all vendors to find suitable space of operation.
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The old mall is where Ngamiland meets and where many women trade. Some spend the day in this market with young children in a place where there are basically no public toilets.
Some of the traders are people who recently lost their jobs in safari and tourism business, which have been hit hard by COVID-19 and informal sector and this place is where they try to irk a living.
However some of the stalls belong to civil service workers who have hired some people to sell mostly second hand clothing.
The arguments from councilors were therefore that if evicted now, many people who depend on this market would be left especially that there is no end in sight for COVID-19 pandemic.
Some councilors such as councilor Bareetsi Bogaisang said there is no harm in letting the lying dogs be, “We are used to this filthy environment, so let’s live with it. People first, let’s think about hunger versus cleanliness and put them of the priority scale.”