Angry Francistown street vendors have described Francistown City Council (FCC) by-law officials as “thieves” that are hell bent on enriching themselves through stealing seized goods from the poor.
Scores of Francistown residents have resorted to the informal sector in the form of vending in order to fend for their families in a country with an estimated unemployment rate of about 17.5percent, according to latest statistics.
This unemployment rate has resulted in an estimated 6.1percent of the country’s tiny population of about 2.2million (according to the 2011 population census) living in abject poverty.
It is against this backdrop that scores of unemployed residents of Francistown have resorted to vending along the busy streets of the country’s second city and the bus rank in a bid to take advantage of the human traffic in the central business district (CBD).
But the city fathers will have none of it. In fact, by-law officials are treating vendors in Francistown as second class citizens thanks to their (by-law officials) continuous raids and harassment which ends in confiscation of goods under the guise of cleaning up the city, the frustrated vendors have claimed.
“It would be better if they raided us without stealing from us the poor,” Polite Mathapa of Gerald Estates location said.
Mathapa commutes from Gerald Estates on a daily basis into the Francistown’s CBD where she sells a variety of vegetables such as cabbage, green peppers, onions and tomatoes and the most sought after butternuts.
“These people (by-law officials) are thieves. They came to our homes in the cover of darkness and took our stuff during the night.
Is that not stealing?”Mathapa who claims to have lost goods worth more than P1 500 to the council asked.
Another frustrated vendor Nsiiwa Moraka also told of how he too lost goods during the night raid.
Like Mathapa, Moraka had ordered a lot of vegetables in anticipation of a brisk business since during the festive season.
“Little did I know that I was throwing my money down the drain,” said Moraka.
He said the by-laws officials took all the vegetables and left him with no option but to borrow money from the neighbors in order to kick start his business because “this is only source of income for my family.”
“Without this stall, I am a pauper but the council officials have no shame in stealing from struggling citizens like us,” he said.
67-year-old Langanani Ntungagwa has been selling at the Francistown bus rank since 1992 and has seen it all happening. She knows how cruel by-law officials in Francistown can be, she says.
“They are merciless. That is why they can spin seized goods into their own personal use without shame,” said Ntungagwa.
Approached for a comment, City of Francistown Mayor James Kgalajwe professed ignorance of the allegations leveled against the council’s by-law officials.
He said the council was just clearing the city in order to make it attractive and clean.