Business community up in arms against hawkers

16Jul 2021
By Guardian Reporter
Mwanza
The Guardian
Business community up in arms against hawkers

THE Tanzania Business Community has said it is of vital importance for the government to review its policy on hawkers, complaining that they are left to operate unhindered even in right front of licensed shops.

The community’s national secretary general, Abdallah Mwinyi, said at a meeting held here yesterday that politicians were to blame for entertaining and supporting a policy against “disturbing” hawkers or vendors which has turned the whole matter into a nuisance to licensed businesses”.

He said there is now a simmering conflict between his community and hawkers, a scenario he referred to as a ticking time bomb that ought to be addressed before it gets out hand.

Mwinyi noted that licensed traders contend with rents to pay for their business premises in addition to tax returns to file “yet there are small traders popularly known as machinga moving freely with their wares to the extent of blocking shops”.

He cited remarks made in the past by “some politicians” that hawkers should not be disturbed, which he said made them “a kind of untouchable lot invading other people’s places of business with impunity”, adding that the situation ought to be reviewed if traders with fixed business premises are to make a profit.

“There is a conflict pitting the hawkers against licensed shop owners while the government heavily – and rightfully – depends on taxes from the traders for running the country. As such, allowing hawkers to operate freely in front of shops could lead to worse problems in the near future.,” he said.

He described hawkers as traders who need to be reared by the government to develop, “but what they do must also be valued so that they too pay due taxes to the government”.

He appealed to the government to take immediate steps to ensure an end to the conflict between hawkers and traders with licences, complaining that it appears the latter were treated more favourably than themselves.

“The government ought to protect licensed traders for them to grow and pay even bigger taxes to the government, while also assisting hawkers for them to pay taxes as well. However, as things stand, the hawkers seem to be receiving favourable treatment,” Mwinyi noted.

He said doing anything to the contrary could negate or destroy the entire concept of doing decent business.

Regarding business situation in the country generally, he said most traders are now more at peace than they were in the past.

He said, previously, licensed traders had few “guardians” to turn to in times of challenges.

Mwanza Region’s Business Community secretary Mohamed Ibrahim meanwhile said traders were intermittently being harassed by the militia, making some traders from outside Mwanza City desist from coming to the region to purchase goods.

Mwinyi also complained that some Mwanza city streets are virtually impassable, especially in the city centre, with hawkers closing roads at will.

In late December 2016, then president John Magufuli ordered local authorities not to evict hawkers from urban centres, asking them instead to find commercially suitable locations for the traders. This has been an oft-repeated but seldom implemented move for years.

In Dar es Salaam, for instance, hawkers literally operate as they wish, blocking shops and offices in most suburbs while caring little for orders to move to alternative sites lined up by municipal and other authorities.

In places such as the sprawling Kariakoo and Mwenge market zones, hawkers keep turning some pedestrian pavements into stalls for selling their wares. Efforts to find alternative business premises have come to little effect.

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