Some residents in Kabwe District in Central province have commended the government for ending street vending in an effort to prevent the spread of cholera.
They say what the government has done is a step in the right direction and the action will help keep the town clean and healthy.
Phil Mwape of Lukanga Township says that he is impressed with the measures government has employed in ensuring that the disease is contained.
Mr Mwape says he is especially happy with the current outlook of the Central Business District (CBD) which usually is congested with street vendors.
He says he is hopeful that the mitigation of street vending will be maintained even after the rainy season so that the town can retain its cleanliness which has not been experienced in a long time.
‘’I have been a resident of Kabwe, and Lukanga Township in particular for over 15 years now, and I must admit that this is the first time I am seeing the corridors and allays in town free of street vendors,’’ he observed.
He also appealed to the council to come up with a fine for people who will be found carelessly disposing of waste adding that this is because some people are fond of throwing litter anyhow and do not even care where that litter will end up.
And Exhildah Mumba from Railways Compound says government should not compromise on street vending because ending it is the only way to a healthy environment.
Ms Mumba observed that the issue of street-vending has been politicized for a long time but said that this should not be the case because cholera was a matter of life and death.
She said government should find other ways of engaging the street-vendors and making them understand why they should never trade from the streets.
She added that the vendors should, however, be given alternative trading places in the markets and that proper toilet facilities should be made available for them.
‘’You see, there is a lot of laziness amongst us as residents because instead of us walking to the markets where it is cleaner and safer for anyone to purchase their goodies, we would rather buy from the streets of where those foodstuffs are not even safe.
‘’I think I blame us as consumers because we are the ones encouraging the vendors. I think that once we stop buying from them, they will not display their goods in the streets but then this is quite difficult if the collective efforts from the general public is not at play,’’ she added.
But Kabwe Street Vendors Association Secretary General, Chabala Mutesha, says he is disappointed with the decision by the government to remove the street vendors from the streets because that is the livelihood for most of them.
Mr Mutesha says what government should have done was to remove only those dealing in foodstuffs which are often time contaminated and not that every street vendor is carrying the disease.
He said it is unfair to drive out everyone because some vendors are trading in goods that have nothing to do with the spread of cholera.
‘’I am very disappointed. How can they remove everyone, including those who are selling shoes and second-hand clothes as if those goods are equally contaminated with cholera?’’ he questioned.
‘’I personally think the government is being unfair on this one and they are not really considerate on the vendors whose livelihoods are dependent on such businesses,’’ he said.
But Acting Town Clerk for Kabwe, Paul Mukuka, has clarified that the issue of street-vending goes beyond food contamination.
Mr Mukuka says the reason for removing vendors from the streets is not only about what they are selling but the effects that come with the practice.
He has observed that there are no toilet facilities in the streets and as a result, the vendors have nowhere to go whenever they want to answer the call of nature and, as a result, they resort to the farrows and other hidden facilities within the streets to ease themselves.
‘’I want to remind the vendors that cholera is a contagious disease, so once we have people trading in the streets, regardless of what they are selling, we are still going to have huge groups of people from different localities going to buy from the streets and our efforts to control the disease will be futile,’’ he said.
‘’So, there is no need to choose who stays and who leaves; we are basically safeguarding the lives of the people including the same vendors who are equally at risk,’’ he added.
And Mr Mukuka has assured venders in the area that there is adequate space in the markets for everyone to trade.
He said there are over 1000 unoccupied trading spaces across the markets in the district but the traders would rather go to the streets instead of the markets that have been built for their convenience.
He added that the only sure way to end street-vending even after the cholera period is to stop buying from the vendors so that they can relocate to the markets.
The Acting Town Clerk said currently, a decision has been to prosecute anyone found trading in the streets.
Mr Mukuka has emphasized that the council has nothing against the street vendors other than safeguarding the lives of the residents from contagious diseases such as cholera.
He also noted that cholera was not only a serious health hazard but an impediment on the country’s economy because its presence simply means that all the economic resources that are meant for other sectoral programmes will be channeled to its mitigation.
Mr Mukuka, therefore, appealed to the residents of Kabwe to partner with the council and ensure maximum levels of hygiene beyond household levels.
Yesterday, the Provincial Epidemic Preparedness Committee resolved to halt street-vending as one of the measures of preventing the spread of cholera and other waterborne diseases in Kabwe.