12 September 2017

Namibia: Oshikango Vendors Unhappy Over Relocation

People engaged in different business activities at Oshikango are unhappy over their "sudden" relocation to the new open market, which they say is incomplete and will badly affect their business operations.

The vendors spoke to The Namibian a week ago following their relocation from the Okatwitwi informal settlement, where they have been conducting business for over 15 years, to the new open market about two weeks ago.

"We do not know what is wrong with the Helao Nafidi Town Council. How can they bring us here when the place is incomplete? They could have waited until everything was in order before they brought us here," fumed Felicia Mhelele, a meat vendor.

She said before they were moved, the town council sent them messages on their mobile phones, urging them to register for business stalls with the town council as they would be moved to the new open market in due course.

After registration, another message was sent to inform the vendors to pay for their respective stalls. That was followed by another message on 30 August, informing every vendor to move to the new open market by 31 August as everyone found at the old site after that date would be breaking the law.

Mhelele said the new open market does not have enough space for all the vendors. In addition, two shelters are still under construction and this has forced some vendors, including herself, to conduct business under the scorching sun.

"All those people are selling in the sun, although some have erected simple structures," she stated.

When The Namibian visited the market, some people were erecting wooden poles to make temporary shelters.

NO MEETINGS, NO CONSULTATIONS

Nangula Endjala, who sells vegetables and raw meat, accused the town council of not consulting the people when crucial decisions are made, or when developmental projects are planned.

"Helao Nafidi has a tendency of not coming to the people. They just sit in their offices and send text messages. How do you communicate with people through SMSes?" she asked.

According to her, they were neither informed of the new open market before construction, nor were they invited to public meetings over the past couple of years.

In addition to the small stalls, which do not have electricity sockets, coupled with poor workmanship, Endjala and other vendors also complained about the high rental fees they say the town council is charging them.

Kapana sellers and other small-scale vendors will pay N$225, while those selling raw meat in bulk as well as vegetable and fruit suppliers will pay around N$600 a month. Those running barbershops and hair salons are charged N$350.

The vendors said they have done research, and have found out that other towns charge less than N$100 for small-scale vendors, and not more than N$500 for any other vendor.

"We are not against relocation, but we were supposed to be consulted and given enough time to prepare," said barber David Salom.

Helao Nafidi mayor Eliaser Nghipangelwa told The Namibian at the new market recently that the town council has done its best to ensure the relocation process is smooth.

"The problem is that relocation is something that people do not accept easily. People were used to staying and doing business at Okatwitwi. Therefore, they feel it is not good to bring them here."

He said the aim of building the new open market was for health reasons as well as the regulation and control of vendors as there were no ablution facilities at Okatwitwi.

"Here, there are toilets, and the environment is safe and secured. Also, illegal and criminal activities were taking place there, and the police had difficulty controlling the area," he said, adding that the police has long called for the demolition of the Okatwitwi location to reduce criminality.

Nghipangelwa added that one reason why the vendors could be complaining is because at the previous location, they never paid any fee.

"They lived like they wanted, and were not paying anything. With regard to the incomplete structures, they will be completed in the next two weeks", he said.

The youthful mayor added that vendors who are not registered with the town council would also be allowed to sell at the open market for a fee, and these would include Angolans who would only be allowed to conduct business at the market for two days a week.

He thus urged residents of the town to approach his office when they have problems, and denied that the town council does not hold meetings with residents.

"Some of them do not attend meetings, which is why they are saying that. Our doors are open, not only for criticism, but suggestions as well," he stated.

The construction of the N$5 million open market commenced in 2015.

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