Maputo — Maputo Municipal Council has removed one of the city's largest illegal markets, in the inner neighbourhood of Alto Mae.
There is a legal "Estrela Vermelha" ("Red Star") market, named after a nearby school, but for decades anyone wanting to enter the legal market has had to run the gauntlet of hundreds of illicit stalls thrown up on the pavement of Emilia Dausse Avenue, and several side streets.
This informal Estrela Vermelha market was notorious as a centre for crime, with stolen goods (such as parts taken from parked cars) regularly turning up for sale there.
It had seemed a permanent fixture - until on Tuesday night the Council sent in the police to demolish it. The municipal police, assisted by a strong contingent of the regular, national police, destroyed, or carried away the illegal stalls. Since the stallholders had all gone home, the police met with no resistance.
On Wednesday morning the informal market was no more, and municipal cleaners completed the job by sweeping up the remaining debris.
The informal vendors, most of them young, sold goods including computers, hi-fi sets, televisions, and other electrical goods, which they cannot possibly have obtained by legal means. Yet, until Tuesday, the police had not moved against the illegal market.
The chairperson of the commission representing the legal Estrela Vermelha stallholders, Paulo Machoi, said he had been expecting the police operation, since the Municipal Council had given the informal sellers plenty of time to leave Emilia Dausse Avenue, and move to the legitimate municipal markets, where there is plenty of space.
"We made a survey, which culminated in granting the informal sellers new places to continue their activities in the Matendene market, on the outskirts of the city, and at the Zimpeto wholesale market", he said.
Matoi said all the informal stallholders who had registered (there are 589 of them) would receive a space in a municipal market.
But many do not want to move, and claim they were surprised by the Tuesday night police raid, although the Municipal Council has repeatedly made clear that it wants to stop people selling on the pavements.