14 September 2017

Namibia: Helao Nafidi Vendors Demonstrate Against New Open Market

Photo: The New Times
(File photo).

Hundreds of disgruntled vendors yesterday demonstrated peacefully at the Helao Nafidi town at Oshikango in the Ohangwena region.

They were demanding that the town council should speed up the completion of the new open market.

They also handed over a petition addressed to the town's chief executive officer, Inga Iipinge, who was not around yesterday.

Local economic development officer Selma Kapembe received the petition on Iipinge's behalf.

The vendors were demanding that council allows them to continue operating from the old Okatwitwi open market while council completes the new market.

They marched from the new open market at Oshikango to the town council's offices at Omafo.

In their petition read by group spokesperson Hans Sheetheni, the vendors accused the town council of not having given proper thought to their 'sudden' relocation to the new open market.

"We, as residents of the Katwitwi location, are not happy with the Helao Nafidi Town Council because of the improper relocation process that was done.

"We want permanent land with services such as water, electricity and ablution facilities," the vendors said in the petition.

The vendors also took a swipe at the town council for the "high rental fees" at the open market, and further accused the town council of insensitivity since most of them are now operating in the scorching sun due to the shortage of stalls at the new open market.

They claim that since the relocation process started a few weeks ago, they had incurred huge losses because they were not properly consulted.

"Some people remained at Okatwitwi, and their operations were stopped by the Helao Nafidi Town Council. While the council is completing the new open market, they should let us operate from Okatwitwi," they demanded.

Nangula Endjala, one of the organisers of the march, told The Namibian that the business people are furious with the town councillors because they had not consulted them about the relocation.

She added that the process was done at short notice.

"We were only given a day to move. Some people had a lot of stuff to move from Okatwitwi, and their businesses were abruptly shut by the police."

In their petition, the vendors also complained about brutal treatment by guards from a security company contracted by the council, whom they accused of confiscating and throwing away merchandise from vendors who are found selling in the streets of the town.

The Namibian was told that the security company was given a directive to remove all vendors operating along the roads in the town.

Kapembe told the protesters that their grievances would be discussed at the next council meeting.

"I am just here to receive your petition, but not to give you answers. You will be given answers when your complaints are discussed at the next council meeting," she said.

The town council, she said, is not against conducting business as long as it is done in line with the applicable laws.

Efforts to get comment from either Iipinge or Helao Nafidi mayor Eliaser Nghipangelwa were unsuccessful.

The Namibian reported on Tuesday that vendors at Oshikango had complained about the newly open market.

Nghipangelwa told the newspaper that council decided to dismantle the Okatwitwi open market to regulate and control vendors.

He said the area was a haven for criminal activities due to its location along the Namibia-Angola border.

"Even the police are happy that the people are being moved, because in the past, a criminal being pursued by the police would just vanish there," he told The Namibian last week.

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