Malawi: Limbe Traders Being Evicted From Shops in Favour of High Paying Chinese Nationals

2 October 2018

With the influx of Chinese nationals coming into the country as petty traders, coupled with trade liberalisation, a lot of Malawians are losing their businesses because they are being evicted from shops by their indian landlords in preference of the Chinese.

According to Limbe Local Business Association, the Indian landlords prefer to rent to these Chinese nationals, who approach them with very high counter offers and also pay for a number of years as lease and in US dollars.

In an open petition seeking the public's sympathy, Limbe Local Business Association say they engaged the Ministry of Trade, Blantyre City Mayor's office, the Immigration Department, Competition and Fair Trading Commission but and none of them has come to their rescue.

"We wrote them and also met with some of them, they just promise to investigate but no tangible solutions [have been addressed]," reads in part the open petition by Limbe Local Business Association.

"Some of the key questions thrown at them include;

* What policies has government put in place to protect indigenous people so that they not swallowed up by this mayhem?

* What sort of permits are they giving to the foreigners which allow them to open a shop on every corner that they wish?

* What value are they adding to our country by opening a shop in the name of foreign investor and only employing two people?

* Why is government allowing them to open shops and sale kaunjika (second hand clothes) and zitenje, something which Malawians can do or already do?

*The government has been talking about empowerment and we collectively employ 30 people, is government happy to send us packing while allowing Chinese to trade freely?," reads the petition.

One of the traders, who is a direct victim but declined to be mentioned as they are receving unspecified threats from the Indians, said herself and five other Malawians have been evicted from their shops at Right Price.

"We have brought this to the attention of the Malawi public to share with them this sad development happening in Limbe because we are not being assisted by the authorities we pleaded our case to," said the trader

"We have posted our open petition on the social media so that people can help to make this known by sharing the post to as many walls as possible so that maybe the authorities can act."

When contacted, Blantyre City Council publicist Anthony Kasunda said he could not comment on this, saying foreign businesses are licensed by the Ministry of Trade & Industry.

In a letter to the the Ministry of Trade & Industry by the Right Price tenants, they say they have been operating businesses such as butchery, pharmacy, cosmetics, stationery, hardware and plastics and they have established very good relations with their customers over a long period of time.

"On Thursday, 12th July 2018 we were summoned to a meeting by our landlord Mr Rafiq Majid at their office premises in Limbe. Mr Majid informed us that he has sold the building which houses our shops. He went on to explain that the organization which has bought the property would like all the sitting tenants to vacate the premises by 30th September 2018.

"He then proceeded to give us letters to this effect, copies of which are attached for your reference.

After the meeting, we embarked on fact finding mission and investigations to establish the truth of the matter.

"To our total dismay, we have learnt that one of the tenants, a Chinese national who sells secondhand clothes, has not been served the notice to vacate. It has come to our attention that he has paid rentals for up to 3 years.

"If the [supposedly] new owners want all tenants out of the premises why is this Chinese national not being asked out We have also discovered that the Chinese nationals offer higher rentals and pay for longer leases. Consequently, the landlords are preferring to let out their properties to Chinese people hence crowding out indigenous small business owners.

"We appreciate that Mr Rafiq Majid; our landlord has the right thttps://admin.allafrica.com/groups/preview.html?doc_key=DocGroup|draft|00049077o sell his property at anytime he wishes but we feel we are being treated unfairly."

Reacting to the open petition posted on one whatsapp group, Nathaniel Chalamanda said while he agrees this is sad people should always remember that some locals have been doing the same to their fellow Malawians in the villages and sorrounding areas of city limits.

"This is food for thought. We are buying land and build houses where the villager who sold it was farming and does not have and alternative. Question is how far would a government policy go? Only to foreigners or to every one in general practicing such behaviour? On what grounds?

"While I sympathize with the victims, I also think about the plight of all those who sold land cheaply to a rich Malawian. Should the question then be, how do we empower ourselves to compete with these guys?

"What can Government to help develop these small traders that they too compete fairly when buying merchandise from outside such as taxes, knowledge on where to buy, empowerment... e.t.c.

"Is this the price of liberalisation? I honestly do not know the answer but this should be one of the major messages for the politicians' campaign instead of just distributing petty cash handouts to buy the votes but once voted they never deliver what they promised," Chalamanda said.

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