The Centre for Trade Policy and Development says actions targeted at containing the Cholera epidemic have caused problems which need serious reflection for the sake of thousands of traders who have no other sources of income.

In a statement, Tuesday, CTPD executive director Isaac Mwaipopo condemned the Zambia Police Service for using teargas to disperse protesting vendors.

Mwaipopo stated that the trading crisis needed urgent solutions because traders could not stay away from their sources of livelihood for too long.

“We have noted with great concern the manner in which the issue of the street vendors in Lusaka who have lost their trading spaces is being handled. The vendors have resorted to protesting as a way of sending a message to the powers that be on a situation that they think has disturbed their livelihood. The government on the other hand using the Zambia Police Service met the protesters with what they have termed minimum force characterised by firing of teargas to disperse the protesting masses. We as CTPD feel this reaction from the Zambia police Service is not the right way to resolve such a sensitive issue,” Mwaipopo stated.

“We feel dialogue is the way to go and not teargassing the protesting masses. While we fully appreciate the bigger problem, the authorities are trying to help resolve, we would also like them to appreciate the challenges the protesting vendors are facing. Beyond the challenges posed by the cholera epidemic, our traders are grappling with the bigger problem of poverty which needs short term and long term solutions and not the smoke fumes from teargas. The challenge we are faced with is multifaceted and every action taken leads to another problem that might demand a different approach in resolving, we might have used the security wing in getting the trading environments cleaned but the resulting effect of having the street vendors out of their trading zone might need a different approach of which we would propose dialogue.”

Mwaipopo appealed to government to reconsider the ban on street vending, arguing that the vendors had demonstrated the desire and zeal to work hard and earn their own money as opposed to waiting for handouts from the government.

“Instead of pushing the traders away and ignoring their views, we wish to appeal to the powers that be there to take an introspection which will give birth to a proactive approach that shows that they understand the plight of our struggling traders who are simply trying to make a living through their hard work in an environment where formal employment opportunities are limited. This approach should take the route of dialogue and direct engagement with the affected street vendors. This approach will therefore require an inter-ministerial response which should bring on board different ministries aside from the Ministry of Health and local Government in dealing with this issue. We have in mind the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture which ministries we think are critical to the issue at hand,” he stated.

“We may not agree with the course of action taken by the street vendors but we also don’t agree with the response by the Zambia Police. We call for dialogue. Looking at the pictures circulated through various social media platforms, we actually noticed that the majority of the protesting street vendors are women, some had children on their backs. This situation requires a sober reflection.”

Mwaipopo noted that how government handled the current crisis would determine how the country moved forward in its economic recovery efforts.

“We do appreciate and support the various initiatives that have been put in place to try and roll back the spread of cholera which has already claimed more than 50 lives and we are actually on record calling on all business entities to join hands with government in pushing to roll back the further spread of the disease as it is a serious threat. But let’s also understand the livelihood aspect that our local traders are facing in our country, there is only as much they can stay away from the source of their livelihood. What would be key at this moment would be to work with them in identifying alternative trading places like the Ministry of Local Government is closing. Now is the time for finding solutions to the problems that confront us. How we handle this situation will determine how the country moves going forward in our economic recovery efforts,” stated Mwaipopo.