In this video, Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga orders soldiers to “act” on irate traders who raised the UPND symbol in protest of government’s move to chase them from the streets.

Chaos rocked Kabwe, Thursday morning, after a combined team of police and defence wings swiftly moved into the central business district to get rid of street vendors.

On Wednesday, Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe announced at a press briefing that there would be an indefinite suspension of street vending saying it was a draconian measure aimed at preventing the further spread of cholera.

Defence forces moved in as early as 05:00 hours and overturned tables and pallets that street vendors use for their business.

However, the exercise did not go down well with the street vendors who accused the authorities of mismanaging the exercise whilst lifting the UPND symbol in defiance.

One of the street vendors Anna Munsha said they should have been given ample time to look for an alternative trading place before chasing them from the street.

Another vendor Elizabeth Tembo accused the mayor and provincial minister of neglecting them and destroying their merchandise in the process.

“I am not happy with what happened this day. I am a widow, taking care of three children and it is from the streets that I earn an income. What pains me is that they destroyed my pallets and some of my goods. I wish they told us in advance about this exercise, I would have looked for other options,” Munsha said.

“My complaint is directed at the Mayor and the provincial minister; these are our people because we voted for them but the way they have treated us is very disheartening. I know that cholera has broken out but the way they have chased us from the streets does not show leadership on their part. They should have at least warned us to remove our tables and pallets from the streets. God will deal with them for what they have done to us,” complained Tembo.

And Mushanga had a tough time explaining government’s decision to the irate street vendors.

“This is not about politics, we are doing this to safeguard your lives. As PF, we have allowed you to sell on the streets from the time we formed government, we have tolerated you, but now we are doing this as a way of preventing and containing the cholera outbreak,” Mushanga said amidst jeers from the vendors.

The Minister, who got incensed when vendors started lifting the UPND symbol, ordered soldiers to “act”.

“You were even raising the UPND symbol. UPND is not in power. If you are UPND, continue supporting UPND, we are not forcing you. If you want to vote for UPND in 2021, vote for UPND,” he said amidst running commentaries.

“Excuse me, this is not a political situation. We all know there is cholera and it can also find you on the streets…The PF government, I want to emphasise this point, on this issue of cholera we are not going to reverse. Those who are becoming unruly, I want to give this directive, act! Especially this lady who was raising the UPND symbol. I am not joking! Can you respect yourself. This is not UPND, if you are UPND, we are not going to relent because maybe this is a political move.”

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Meanwhile, Kabwe Central PF Member of Parliament Tutwa Ngulube said while efforts to curb Cholera are welcome, the street vendors should have been engaged before the combined team swung into action to chase them from the streets.

“The vendors in the Central Business District woke up to a rude shock today when they saw their stands being demolished and some of their goods being destroyed. We had a meeting with the Provincial Minister in his office where he gave us a briefing that there was a cleaning exercise that is being done to prevent the spread of cholera. And I commended the minister for the stance taken because we are all aware that we need to fight cholera. But when I went around town, I received a lot of complaints from the vendors. They have complained that no notice was given to them before the exercise was carried out. Some of them said they got soft loans to buy their goods and they don’t know how they will pay back. While others complained that they have school going children and they don’t know how they will raise money for school fees,” Ngulube said.

“I want to agree with the vendors. It’s important that when there is such an important exercise, all the stakeholders should agree on the way forward to avoid surprises like we are seeing now. I took time to comfort them because no one has explained anything to them. They don’t know when the exercise will finish. They don’t know where they are going to be taken as an alternative. So as area Member of Parliament, I want to urge the Kabwe Municipal Council and the Provincial Minister to quickly address the issue of alternative trading places for the street vendors, so that they can again get back to business. Much as we are fighting cholera, I think its important that we also try and preserve the livelihoods of the people that voted for us.”

Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga addresses angry Kabwe traders on January 4, 2018 – picture by Joseph Mwenda