Francistown — A street vendor, who plies her trade in front of Ntshe House in Francistown was last week Friday, rushed to Nyangabgwe Referral hospital with multiple bodily burns, after a cooking gel she was using to warm food exploded.
The woman was admitted in hospital with serious bodily burns according to the Nyangabgwe Referral hospital Public Relations Officer, Mr Keekae Majeremani.
One customer also suffered burn injuries on the left arm and was attended at the hospital, but discharged the same day.
Nearby street hawkers and vendors, as well as security guards at the main entrance of Ntshe House, were forced to run for their lives following the explosion, which they allege, sounded like a bomb.
The whole pandemonium reportedly took about 20 minutes and fire fighters raced to the scene to extinguish the fire.
A vehicle, which was packed some few metres from the scene, was also damaged by the fire.
Francistown District Officer (Development), Mr Boyce Mangole, who witnessed the incident and called the fire fighters, said in a interview that the authorities discourage the use of open fires and gas cylinders to warm food in public places.
A witness and a street vendor, who did not want to be named, said the woman, in her 20s, was a new comer to the business.
The witness said the incident was not the first of its kind as another woman suffered the same fate in the past at the bus rank, after using the same cooking gel.
She stated that most vendors rely on the gels to warm up food they sell.
Francistown City Council (FCC) City Clerk stated in an interview that the council embarked on continuous crackdowns on street vendors who used gas cylinders to warm food in public places.
Mr Lopang Pule said though the informal sector was the backbone of the economy, it needed to be regulated like any other sector.
He explained that the council was in its second round of consultations with informal sector associations on the new draft bye-laws to regulate how hawkers and street vendors must operate and where to operate.
Mr Pule explained that the council would not hesitate to take action against those who flouted bye-law, especially those who used gas cylinders for cooking.
"Our rules and regulations for street vendors and hawkers are very clear for those people who want to sell food. Cooking is not allowed in public places, especially at the bus rank. They are supposed to bring cooked food and warm it at their selling points," he added.
He said the council was aware that some hawkers and street vendors cooked in public places, whilst some mixed the cooking gel with other ingredients in an effort to enhance and prolong its use, hence such explosions.
Mr Pule revealed that the council had in the past, confiscated gas cylinders because they were not allowed for safety reasons, as they are prone to exploding, resulting in life-threatening injuries and causing damage to property.
He explained that FCC had advised hawkers and street vendors to use temporary movable structures, which they could take home after trading.
He lamented the deplorable state of the bus rank, saying traders had allocated themselves spaces and erected illegal structures there.
Mr Pule said the rank had also become a haven for criminal activities such as selling of illegal substances like marijuana and was an eyesore.
"There are serious issues at the bus rank that include, amongst others, the exchange of foreign currency, and selling of illegal facial products that lighten the skin," he added.
The City Clerk revealed that the council and the police will soon set up a task force to improve law enforcement.
Source : BOPA