President Lungu has constituted a committee of ministers to be headed by Vice President Inonge Wina that will soon come up with ways of helping traders who were affected by fire that gutted City Market on Tuesday.
The President said that the committee will also look at the reconstruction of the gutted market. The president also appealed to well-wishers and the business community to come the aid of the affected marketeers.
And AS hundreds of distraught traders began picking through the charred rubble of the part of Lusaka’s City Market wasted by Tuesday morning’s fire, it was revealed a total of 1,379 stalls were destroyed.
City Market acting manager Andrew Banda said the affected section was made up of 1,905 stalls. Sources told the Times that as the stalls tended to be shared with illegal sub-tenants, the affected number of traders was probably two or three times more than the number of the shops.
The inferno, one of the biggest fire incidents seen in the capital in recent years, has led to the closure of the market, Zambia’s largest with well over 6,000 registered traders.
Yesterday, as they contemplated the damage wrought by a fire whose origins the police are still trying to determine, many of the traders, having lost huge stocks of merchandise, equipment and shop furniture, were urging the authorities to reopen the market so they could try and get back to business with the little resources they still had or could muster.
Christine Bwalya, a shoe trader, said 50 bales of second-hand shoes valued at K67, 500 were burnt and she had obtained a K70,000 loan from AB Bank, which she was paying back in K7, 100 monthly installments. She employs a team of 10 workers.
Fighting back tears, Ms Bwalya said in an interview yesterday the loss of her merchandise had left her in a hopeless state; despairing about her loan and her own survival.
“My appeal to the Government is, please come to our aid and even if it means allowing us to trade from the corridors of City Market while they are repairing the facility, that form of help is welcome,” she said.
Another second-hand shoes trader, Dorothy Kafula, appealed for capital to re-launch her business, having managed to save only five bales of shoes from the 20 she had bought at K1, 100 apiece.
Like Ms Bwalya, she too had obtained a K40,000 loan from AB Bank which she was expected to pay back in K3,500 monthly installments. Without some sort of bail-out, she is ruined.
Matilda Banda, who runs a stationery business with her sisters, said besides the equipment and other related products that were destroyed in the blaze, K9,000 cash was burnt. Like the two shoe traders, she and her sisters have been left with nothing.
Closing the market for the duration of the repair works would be of no help to them and she warns many of the affected young people may be tempted into anti-social conduct for solace and means to raise capital.
Ireen Mutale, who had a takeaway stall and another dealing in tailoring, said she only managed to retrieve fridges from the market while the rest of her merchandise were either looted or burnt and was totally against the prolonged closure of City Market.
Earlier in the morning, Lusaka Central Member of Parliament Margaret Mwanakatwe visited City Market and assured the affected traders that the Government would ensure that it assisted them in whatever way possible.
Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit national coordinator Patrick Kangwa later in the day told the traders that the Government had started taking stock of all those that had stalls at City Market with a view to assisting them.
Mr Kangwa said the traders whose shops were burnt – and those from the unaffected part, but whose property was looted in the chaos occasioned by the fire – and had obtained police reports should go to Nakatindi Hall at the Civic Centre to register their particulars.
He stirred hurrumphs of disapproval from the horde of traders when he announced that the market would be reopened only after engineers had concluded their assessment and certified it fit for occupation.
Zambia National Marketeers Credit Association president Mupila Kameya described the burning of markets as retrogressive and asked that such facilities be provided with 24 hours security surveillance, including Closed-Circuit Television.