URBAN dwellers or visitors would testify to the harassment petty traders or street hawkers undergo in the hands of the city or municipal ‘askaris’, sometimes to the point of suffering beatings, confinement and confiscation or destruction of their wares.
In an attempt to make ends meet and given the few or limited formal employment opportunities available, many people, mostly youth and women, have taken to entrepreneurship, doing this or that activity.
These include the young men and women or even some elderly persons, who have eked a living over the years by hawking all sorts of goods in the streets and neighbourhoods. They also include vendors, who arrange their wares on the street pavements, including clothing, other household linen, shoes, cosmetics and toiletries. Some even trade in perishables such as fruits and vegetables. They have found, especially in busy spots in urban areas, a ready and lucrative market for their wares.
A number of women, popularly known as ‘Mama Ntilie’, have been preparing and selling all sorts of dishes, including rice, ‘ugali’ and accompaniments, at affordable prices. There are true examples or stories being told of such petty traders being able to meet education costs for their children from primary school to university levels.
Some have been able to build decent houses, open bigger shops and buy land for farming purposes. Either acting on personal whim or by some orders from above, some unruly city ‘askaris’ have been literally ambushing food and other vendors and street hawkers, destroying their wares or taking them (the goods) to some unknown destination never to be accounted for again.
In sheer violation of human rights, they have been bundling the unfortunate men and women onto trucks, moving with them in their search for more vendors, sometimes under the scorching sun and rain.
It is for the unpleasant scenario illustrated above that Tanzanians must have sighed with relief at the stop order to such eviction in the urban areas issued by President John Magufuli in his meeting with the top brass of the Ministry of Regional Administration and Local Governments in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.
Instead of evicting them in such an undignified manner, the authorities concerned should try as best as they can to help the petty traders carry out their trading activities in an orderly manner and at officially designated areas. The sooner this is done the better.