Street Vendors’ Tears And Pain Will Haunt Hichilema- Fred M’membe

Dr. Fred M'membe

The tears and grief of the mothers who were pitilessly driven off the streets of Lusaka Central Business District yesterday will haunt Mr Hichilema and his league.

It breaks our hearts to see the street vendors in Lusaka becoming a subject of ridicule, abuse and neglect by this government, which they toiled for so much based on the heaven- like future, Mr Hichilema and the UPND promised them. These people had so much hope and expectation from this government because that is what they were guaranteed. They were promised a life of milk and honey but they have been paid back with inconsiderable cruelty.

As if this is not enough, these people have been endlessly mocked and taunted by Mr Hichilema and the UPND online media infrastructure ever since this tragedy began. Suddenly, Mr Hichilema’s erstwhile beloved and reliable constituency of voters has become a nuisance, which deserves nothing but disrespect and must be kept to the extreme margins of economic structures and activities.

We are not surprised because we have never harboured any illusions about Mr Hichilema’s lack of empathy and total detachment from the suffering majority of this country. The past has shown that compassion, kindness and love for the poor has never been Mr Hichilema’s strength in all his political dealings. Today, he has ostracised the vendors because he sees them as people of very little value to him now that he is at plot one.

Mr Hichilema has forgotten so soon that the vendors they forcibly pulled off the streets were merely trying to earn a living under the cruel conditions facilitated by this very government. For instance, according to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket for the month of June 2023, the cost of living for a family of five in Lusaka, increased to K9, 239.45. This is in comparison to the recorded figure of K9, 077.93 in May 2023, which signifies an increase of K161.52.

It is therefore, indefensible that this government decided to handle such a delicate matter at a time such as this, in a purely colonial governance style. It’s like the conditions suffered by the indigenous majority during colonial times have now been passed on to the vendor. The same harsh approaches used by colonial administrators to keep indigenous people at the peripheries of the Central Business District are the similar ones being applied by this government on its own citizens without proper alternatives.

It’s very strange that Mr Hichilema, who has not provided options to the vendor problem, wants the vendors not to exist at all. Since being elected into office, this government has not provided any policies and structures of dealing with this particular group of the informal sector yet they rush to inflict so much anguish and pain on the poor people as if it was their fault to find themselves on the streets. There is nothing wrong with keeping a clean, green and healthy environment but there should be empathy, humanity and planning attached to the attainment of these goals.
It is therefore, unacceptable that our people should lose livelihoods at such an accelerated pace due to government’s inability to strategise and prioritise policy-making. Mr Hichilema must know that if well developed the informal sector of this country can be used for poverty reduction and eradication so let them not be so focused on exploiting and abusing the toiling masses of this country. We demand that compensation be provided to those who lost property and sustainable alternatives anchored in policy be specified so that the voice and visibility of this particular group of the informal sector is guaranteed.
Fred M’membe


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