Dodoma traders forced to make way for SGR project

04Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Dodoma traders forced to make way for SGR project

HUNDREDS of petty traders in Dodoma municipality were over the weekend the victims of a demolition exercise carried out by the Railway Assets Holding Company (RAHCO) to pave way for the standard gauge railway (SGR) project.

Traders who were directly affected by the demolitions were those stationed at the Jamatin town minibus (daladala) and main Shabiby upcountry bus stations, plus major fuel filling stations run by Oryx and Total.

In the exercise supervised by Dodoma police, some merchants were unable to recover their belongings before the bulldozers razed down their stalls.

Many of the traders blamed the government for failing to allocate alternative areas for them to resume their businesses.

One trader, Alia Antony, complained to The Guardian that they were not given enough prior notice of the demolitions, being told to relocate as late as Friday while the exercise began on Saturday.

“We are not against the move, but to remove our stalls without properly relocating us first is unfair. Several of us have taken out loans from bank... what are we expected to do now?” Antony queried.

His sentiments were echoed by Mmari Matei, another trader, who said: “We are aware this is a countrywide exercise which is meant to bring about development. But just imagine, they (government) have yet to give us another area where we can continue doing business, and most of us bank on these businesses for our survival.”

Another trader who introduced herself as Mama Johnson noted that the demolition exercise offered looters the chance to ransack shops.

“We are stranded, we have lost our direction because from now on our families are going to have difficulties. I’m especially worried about our children in school. We are begging for the government to feel pity for us,” she said.

Mariam Mbega, a food vendor, says she is now in a dilemma.

“I took a bank loan to start this business and I have yet to pay off my debt. I don’t know what to do and I am a widow with four children,” she said.

Yet another trader, Musa Lusinde, asserted that the demolitions have been implemented before the announced date.

According to Lusinde, the merchants were told that the exercise would be carried out at least nine days after the initial announcement, which was last Friday.

But RAHCO public relations officer Catherine Moshi refuted this claim, saying the traders were first notified back in November last year that they would have to vacate the areas reserved for the SGR project.

According to Moshi, similar demolitions along the SGR project pathway have been completed in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Dodoma, and will now move to Tabora to Mwanza.

The railway reserve area is 15 metres on both sides from the centre of the line, and 30 metres for the rural areas, so the invading traders have no grounds to complain, she added.

She urged invaders in Tabora and Mwanza to take precautions and start vacating the reserve areas before the bulldozers arrive.

“The first phase of the SGR project – the Dar es Salaam-Morogoro stretch - is already well underway and the contractor is on the site,” Moshi said.

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