Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How petty traders suffers the blows of municipal militiamen

Susan Mwombeki stood in amazement as tears flowed down her chicks as she witnessed scores of municipal militiamen in their active operation of evicting defiant petty traders along Kariakoo market complex saying it is being conducted with cruelty. She became terribly shocked and painful when she gazed a single woman with her breastfeeding young baby strapped on her back being harassed at the scene without mercy after the soldiers had invaded her and began picking up her business items which she had spread on the ground.  Tears from her was an indication that she felt sympathetic with the woman whom she regarded as being among the low income people struggling for a daily bread of her entire family which for that day might have probably ended up sleeping with empty stomach. Suzana who is a resident of Kibaha Mwendapole in Coast region is in the city to fulfill a business appointment, and apart from being an entrepreneur, she is also engaged in human rights activism. She is among the less feared women although was terrified at that time when she saw such a large group of militiamen who after having approached the area began to stamp on the tomatoes and other goods including some fruits of the fleeing petty  The soldiers took along with them some merchandise left behind by fleeing petty traders to unknown destination, only few who were lucky enough from the same scene swiftly managed to escape out of the sight of furious militiamen. Speaking to the writer of this new who happened to be present witnessing the swoop, Suzana wondered in disbelief as she watched the drama and had nothing to do over what was happening at such unlikely time of the day.  Elaborating more she clarified that the approach used by the militiamen to attack traders is in a harsh manner bearing in mind the fact that, traders have their valuable merchandise which some gets damaged and never compensated for any losses incurred. She is on the view of the fact that, militiamen could use peaceful ways of relocating petty traders from doing their businesses in unauthorized areas, rather than applying force an aspect likely to cause bloodshed in the area. This is a terrified situation that has caused an endless debate among the people around who used to witness such kind of a drama whenever the two parties come into confrontation while in their operation in three Dar es Salaam municipal councils of Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni.  The ongoing operation to decongest the overwhelmed streets around Kariakoo market complex in downtown Dar e Salaam city has been termed to be a relief to shoppers in the area as the Ilala Municipal Council, has been striving hard to evict the petty traders from invading open spaces on which to conduct their business activities. Some people have expressed their appreciations by hailing the exercise currently being undertaken by Ilala municipal militiamen in their forceful eviction of petty traders popularly known as ‘Machingas’ who clogged main streets around Kariakoo business complex in Dar es Salaam city, saying that the exercize has rendered free movements in areas which were formerly impassable. In an interview with this paper, quite a number of people have appreciated the move dubbed, “Cleaning the city” which is aimed at decongesting Kariakoo market complex to give a relief to shoppers with some who felt the pinch of the exercises, showed sympathy to the defiant petty traders. The municipal militiamen are always armed with sticks and clubs and tend to emerge from nowhere unexpectedly in ambush attack to accomplish their planned mission of arresting petty traders who seemed to be stubborn and defiant to obey the order that requires them not to trade in unrestricted areas within the city centre.  Normally, while in their operation, the militiamen tend to look less sympathetic and rather unconcerned with the pleading petty traders whom they manage to apprehend and who later on ended up paying fines in city court once arraigned and charged according to municipal’s bylaws. Interviewed one passerby who identified himself by one name Chogola seemed to be sympathetic and said that, ‘the government should ask itself and think about the destiny of her people before applying forceful actions”.  He is of the view of the fact that, the city authorities should look for a more convenient place to let petty traders conduct their businesses to avoid encountering such endless clashes now and then. However, he noted that, the main focus on these clashes should be how to relieve  these people from abject poverty under the confused attitude which drives them into such extremes and are ready to sustain sufferings at the expense of ensuring that their families survives. Another man who preferred anonymity queried the rationale of their removal saying that their presence also helps poor earners as they could afford goods sold at a cheapest price rates. However, he suggested that if the government was touched by their people, then it could have paid special attention to them as they deserve the rights of living just like other citizens. For a new comer in Dar es Salaam city it would be a great surprise when walking down the main streets and happen to encounter with such a fracas, and probably would dare to criticize the offending group who doesn’t want to comply with the laid down rules and regulations altogether. All designated streets in the area are overwhelmed by the ever-increasing population in the city causing all entrances to the complex and other shopping outlets are then clogged by thousands of shoppers who are mingled with petty traders, not forgetting service vehicles and those owned by the shoppers.  Despite regular eviction of petty traders in the area, still the situation is more alarming and this is mostly aggravated by defiant traders who do not want to vacate from the restricted areas to which are not authorized to conduct their businesses. 

Petty traders known as Machingas roasting maize and selling their merchandise along the street.

Their movements have been too chaotic that it is just impossible for drivers to make any headway through in the presence of the heavy traffic. The situation is worse during the shopping sprees especially at this time around when an important Christmas occasion is around the corner. This is a religious festival which happens once in a year.  In this occasion, most shops are filled up with stock piles of perishable goods such as clothes, shoes and a wide variety of domestic appliances.  Official statistics made available by them Ilala municipal council shows that, Kariakoo business complex currently accommodates 1,558 businesses and serves a population of 55,000 people daily. Dar es Salaam is an ever expanding city, which necessitates the need to have satellite market complexes in the districts and several other locations in the peripheries. These would help ease the congestion now experienced in the city centre and places around Kariakoo market complex. A typical example could be seen along Msimbazi and Congo streets the famous majestic bazaar which are busy all the time throughout a day for different goods both consumable and luxury not forget some headaches caused around by motorists. What dominates Msimbazi Street by far and always is shops for mobile phones accessories which are being touted every now and then. Statistics by Ilala municipal council shows that, about 15 percent of the Dar es Salaam residents visit the area every day for their daily needs. Jacob Onesmo who is a business man in Morogoro town narrated his experience to the writer of this news in favour of the city militiamen. According to him, petty traders are always at fault for disobeying city orders which requires them to vacate from trading in unrestricted areas. He noted that, whenever he arrives in Dar es Salaam city, he has been experiencing some difficulties while trying to force his movements through if in a hurry at Kariakoo once he has purchased his goods. Onesmo who sells ICT tools and other electronic gadgets used to order a bulk purchase of various kinds of assortments at Kariakoo main shopping centre in the city. He noted that, the area is so overcrowded with people all the time causing inconveniences throughout the day. Ostracizing the plight of the area, he says that, he sometimes encounters with lots of difficulties mostly when in need of transport to carry his purchased goods due to the fact that, all streets in the area are clogged and made impassable owing to petty business activities that it sometimes become difficult to pass through. Efforts to remove petty traders in the city has become an uphill task indeed, an exercise which sometimes ends up in violence when the city militiamen confronts petty traders, says one shopkeeper who identified himself by one name Shomari. However, he suggested that, ‘the operation like this one should be planned with properly organized strategic means to make it successful, otherwise hatred among them would continue unabated. He suggested that, the authorities from the local government to national level should deliberate on the possible ways on how they could empower small scale traders by giving them special areas to conduct their activities.  Shomari queried on such operations why it involves confiscation of vendors’ merchandise and other properties and wanted to know where are such goods taken to, and if at all their owners are given ample time to repossess them. This paper contacted the Ilala Municipal council legal officer Mashauri Musimu for comment over the matter and said that, the confiscated goods are reserved in a room at the ward office and sometimes in court awaiting owners to come and claim for them. However, he denied the fact that such goods are distributed among workers of the council as widely speculated by people in the street. He clarified that, once their owners appears in court are normally fined for disobedience after which are handed back their properties with strict order not to repeat conducting business in restricted areas. He further said that, the most funny thing is that, most traders do not appear in court for they know would meet such penalties which are normally imposed as fines that range between Sh. 50,000/- and Sh. 100,000/-respectively and instead resort to boycott their goods for ever. He further clarified that, the perishable goods such as tomatoes, fruits and those likely to go bad are taken to government children’s centres (approved school) for consumption. For none perishable goods, he said are publicly auctioned. The Ilala Municipal Public Relations Officer, Tabu Shaibu said that, the move by the municipality is intact as it aim to remove vendors who have been inconveniencing movements of motor vehicles and people as most of them are trading within road reserves. According to her, the operation will continue as usual to make sure that such traders do not conduct their businesses in such restricted areas as stipulated in municipal’s by-laws, otherwise the authorities would continue arresting them and their properties. However, she insists that, the continued presence of these traders in these areas is against the city’s by-laws and that it was legal to confiscate their properties once impounded and tendered them as physical evidences before the city court. She also noted that, Ilala municipal council has embarked effectively in an operation dubbed “cleaning the city” that is aimed at removing petty traders from trading in unrestricted areas from the city centre.  The operation has extended outside the city centre to neighboring suburbs in the city and is a continuous exercise which aims to clean the city’s environment as part of the cities sustainable development programme. Commenting over the harassments caused during the operation, the Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander, ACP Sulleiman Kova said that, the police deals with criminal offences and ensures the safety of the citizens in the country. But, he continued and said that if such operation would endanger petty traders in one way or another, then the police would intervene for the interest of maintaining people’s safety and noted that, since the operations started the police have not been involved so much.

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