Windhoek — Arts and crafts vendors along Fidel Castro Street are unhappy with the city's decision to relocate them to the OK Parking below the Eliakim Namundjebo Plaza from where they must now conduct their business.
One of the vendors Katrina Nangolo said they were instructed to move away as soon as possible from their old trading spot to the new spot where several huge shade nets have been erected for their convenience. However, last Thursday saw the vendors return to Fidel Castro Street.
The discontented vendors say the municipality intends to install water pipes under the paved area where they used to conduct business. The car guards are also up in arms claiming interference with their business by the arts and crafts vendors.
"It is a total loss. We can't do business like this," thundered one angry car guard. The vendors say motorists tend to park their vehicles right in front of their newly allocated spots and as a result obscure their wares from potential customers, especially tourists.
The vendors further objected to the new place and refused to display their crafts, saying the space is too small for all of them. "We are about 30 people here and the space is too small to exhibit all our items," they said.
Vendors pay N$230 each month to the municipality for renting the space along Fidel Castro Street and for safeguarding and storing their arts and crafts in containers that the Windhoek municipality provided.
"This is just a way for them (municipality) to chase us away and it is an inconvenience for us," they claim. They are also frustrated that a nearby toilet is only accessible from Monday to Friday and remains closed over weekends. "We can't even relief ourselves, because the closest toilet is in Zoo Park where we have to pay for its use."
Joshua Amukugo, the corporate communications manager of the City of Windhoek indicated that the arts and crafts vendors along Fidel Castro Street have known of this development (Freedom Plaza Development) since 2006, which would ultimately include upgraded stands for them.
"Discussions around the development has been ongoing since that time. The traders were subsequently informed of the relocation to the parking area during January 2013, and unfortunately the developers communicated no dates at that time but the traders were advised to start preparing for the relocation - a move, which was welcomed by all the traders, he informed New Era.
Amukugo said the City of Windhoek is however aware of the traders' concerns regarding the sizes of the new individual stands demarcated in front of the parking area, which amount to about 11.5 square metres.
He said it must be noted that the lease agreement makes provision for 10 square metres, whereas the stands utilized by the traders along Fidel Castro Strret were about 12.5 square metres in size.
Amukugo said some of the committee members/representatives of the small traders were invited to oversee the demarcation of the stands at the parking area and they initially agreed to the sizes of the stands.
"At a meeting held with the traders on Wednesday, 6th of February 2013, the traders agreed to move into the parking area whereas any limitations found at the new space would be communicated in writing to the City of Windhoek for further consideration and action.
"Unfortunately, the City of Windhoek has not received any communication from the traders in this regard, apart from their refusal to remove their items from the containers in order to allow the contractors to move the containers closer to the newly created site, and to commence with the project," he said.
He said it is important to note that this is a temporary arrangement that was necessitated by the laying of a sewer pipe that would pass through the current trading site, a process expected to be complete within six weeks.