By Wesley Ngwenya
The other morning we woke up only to find the famous Soweto market gone. All the market stalls were gone. This was received with utmost disbelief for most of the residents especially the men and women who owned the stalls. Some lost all their property as a result. This means more people out of work, more people without money, more people without food and less children going to school. Hats off to the hardworking Lusaka City Council!
The demolishing took place because the council was building a more modern building to accommodate the traders at Soweto market. It is no doubt that the new and modern facility will be a welcome development to all the traders of Soweto and all the shoppers of Lusaka. But why the haste in destroying millions, if not billions of Kwachas, worth of property? Could the council have handled the matter differently and have been less confrontational? Certainly.
To hear the council spokesperson justify the exercise, stating that the traders have been operating at the market illegally is very illogical. Why did it take the council so long to destroy the stalls if they have been operating illegally? Was there a warning I wonder? The council should have warned the traders in advance and facilitated the transition to their new trading place. If the new modern market is not ready then they could have waited for the market to be ready for a smooth transition. Who burns their home and property before their new home is ready? I guess only our city council is capable of that.
What the council should have done is to create maximum awareness to the traders at Soweto. In fact, they should have had a specific date communicated to all the traders through flyers, megaphones, newspaper, and television adverts as to when they will come with their bulldozers to do what they are good at doing. For some reason our council is good and efficient at tearing things down. They meet deadlines when it comes to this. Tell them to build something and suddenly there are tons of excuses. The council should have put a countdown on national television starting a few days before the demolishing exercise.
Again, like I have stated so many times local government is there to help its citizens. It has a duty to provide basic necessities and create acceptable living conditions for its people. This is also how peace is promoted. When you provide and take care of your people then order will equally follow. However, the actions of the council leaves me wonder whether these people are really concerned with the peace that we all enjoy in this country by demolishing Soweto market.
I am in no way saying that the traders of Soweto should not move to their new trading post. I think they should because after all Soweto was one ugly, full of chaos and smelly place. It was a place I dreaded going. Regardless, the traders at Soweto deserved better especially from the council who levied them always.
I am glad I come from a country such as Zambia whose people are peaceful and hate violence. When I was at Soweto yesterday morning it was very quiet except for the disbelief on the faces. Maybe they saw that coming but didn’t really believe that the council will do it. Maybe right now they are so hurt and wondering what step to take next. Maybe they do not care and will easily just move on and transition to wherever they will be selling their Kapenta this time.
Whatever the above case may be, I can assure you that there will be a hungry family tonight because the father did not bring food, there will be a broken home tonight because the wife cannot take it any more, there will children not going to grade nine despite doing so well because…Well I do not even need to go further with this one. That is what our local government is capable of doing–destroying innocent lives of its own people. I see why they are building on the promise of continuity—to make my life and your life continue to be miserable and promise theirs full of cheers!