Street vendors in Livingstone are angry with Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo for removing them from the streets without providing alternative jobs or decent trading spaces as promised by the Patriotic Front government.
The street vendors were reacting to Masebo's action on Friday, when she physically stormed Mosi-oa-Tunya road in Livingstone where she asked the vendors to leave the streets. This was in contravention of President Michael Sata's directive to all authorities not to chase vendors from the streets because illegal hawking was their only source of livelihood, owing to the scarcity of jobs in Zambia.
But Masebo said the vendors in Livingstone must leave the street in readiness for the co-hosting of the United Nations Tourism Organisation conference (UNWTO) conference with Zmbabwe later this year.
United Street Vendors Foundation Southern Region chairperson Patrick Mubanga said the although the removal of vendors from the streets was welcome, Masebo and the Patrotic front (PF) government should have first provided alternative jobs or decent trading places before throwing the people into the cold.
"We welcome the move, but it is directly against their own promises of providing and creating jobs. These vendors still don't have jobs and trading spaces where to do their business. We thought the President made a directive on this matter. The UNWO conference will come and go, but people need to eat even in face of the event," he said.
Mubanga said the Government must allow vendors to conduct their businesses from the other streets and at Green Market because there was not other alternative to trade.
The removal of vendors has cheered some residents who have praised Masebo for the move saying it would bring sanity to the tourist capital.
Masebo said the clean up was meant to bring cleanliness and sanity to Livingstone ahead of the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in August this year.
On Friday afternoon, Masebo with a team of government officials and armed escort from the Zambia Police Service removed vendors from Mosi-oa-tunya Road.
"We must start trading in an orderly and proper manner instead of cooking food in the streets where there are no toilets. We had to remove you immediately because we don't have enough time before the UNWTO General Conference as we only have 90 days before the event.
Inspectors from UNWTO headquarters will be coming here this month to check on the progress we and we may lose the opportunity to host this big event if you continue to overcrowd the streets, which also raises security concerns," she told the vendors.
She said the government would continue to support them even when they conducted their trading businesses elsewhere. She said street vendors must consider forming clubs and draw business proposals, which the government could fund.
Masebo said the removal of vendors was timely and long overdue as the street was becoming very dirty days on end in the tourist capital. She said it was important to keep Livingstone clean because it was the tourist capital of Zambia, hence the need to maintain a good image of the region.
"This is a tourist capital and we must keep the city clean. Vendors were making the city dirty and it is clean now," she said. She said Victoria Falls Town across the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe was cleaner than Livingstone City in Zambia because vendors were not allowed to overcrowd the street.
Over 146 vendors gathered at the Livingstone City Council where Masebo said the PF government had a tourism fund to empower its citizens and street vendors could benefit from this facility if they were interested in establishing tourism enterprises.