Sustainable solution will end vendor menace

01Nov 2017
The Guardian
Sustainable solution will end vendor menace

THE cat-and-mouse game by police, city council and vendors in the Dar es Salaam Central Business District is unsustainable. It is costly to the Police, just as it does not paint a good picture for visitors to our beloved city.

We unequivocally support the decision by authorities to rid Dar es Salaam of vendors, but we believe Dar es Salaam  City Council must be innovative enough and devise ways that accommodate the vendors, minus this daily confrontation on the streets.

We admit that a number of factors have pushed the vendors onto the streets, including the state of the economy where jobs are scarce.  It is important to realise and accept that the problem of vendors is not peculiar to Tanzania. From Rome to Montevideo, there is vending in the streets. Vending is actually a viable business. The only difference is that in Italy, just as it is in Uruguay and other countries, it is well organised you might not even notice the vendors. Rome, for example, is famous with ladies trading in handbags on the streets. They sell other paraphernalia as well, but order is the guiding principles.

The vending is done in cubicles ingeniously located. One wonders when the Dar es Salaam City Council will start viewing the vendors as business people in their own right who can contribute meaningfully, not only to their families, but to council coffers as well. We suggest that council must urgently identify street corners and provide cubicles for the vendors from which they trade at a fee to the municipality. Violently kicking the vendors out is also costly politically.

What we have to realise as a nation is that these are people trying to fend for their families and need gentle handling. Let us provide them with the facilities, not just for the sake of it, as is with the current scenario where council wants them to trade where no one will come to buy their wares. Obviously, they cannot all have trading places in the heart of the city. Difficult situations call for innovativeness and the time for council to be proactive is now. It has to be a win-win situation -- provision of vending stalls or cubicles to the vendors for a small fee that enables both parties to go home smiling.

The delay in chucking the vendors out of the streets created in the vendor's mind a sense of belief that they are invincible. They certainly do not enjoy the cat and mouse game with the law enforcers, as by the end of the day they return home counting their loses. We believe non-coercive measures are the ultimate solution to the vendors menace. We also note that the problem of vendors is not confined to Dar es Salaam, but has spread to cities and towns across the country. It is also time that people realise that we cannot all live in the city.

Even in Europe, there are villages, as in China or Latin America, where people live large. If life in the city has become a nightmare, let us encourage each other to retrace our roots for a restart to life. Better is a day spent on a piece of land in the village than one on the streets with wares not enough to cover the vendor's transport costs. This explains why some vendors were now technically living on the streets.

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