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ONLY 10 VENDORS TO OPERATE DAILY

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MBABANE – Vendors are caught between a rock and a hard surface as over 60 of them have been ordered to stay home.


At least 78 fruit and vegetable vendors operate in the city and have been ordered by the Mbabane Municipal Council to slash the numbers to 10 vendors trading per day during the partial lockdown period.
In a bid to adhere to government’s measures to prohibit public gatherings of a group of 20 people.


This move has not been welcomed by the vendors, who noted that they were dealing in perishable goods.
Government, through the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Mancoba Khumalo, listed food retailers under essential services, a category the vendors also felt they were under.


Vice Chairperson of the Vendors Committee Sibongile Hlanze said they understood the seriousness of COVID-19 but were pleading with council to consider a work plan that would be good enough for them.


Confused


Hlanze said they were confused as to what steps to take as they were a huge group, meaning that they would have to remain home for almost 10 days if they alternated.
According to Hlanze, as small business entrepreneurs they were looked down upon, yet they also contributed the economy.
The chairperson said such a decision was a huge blow for their business as they dealt in perishable goods.


“If I am not available for 10 days, these goods will spoil and I will incur a huge loss,” said Hlanze.
She said they lived from hand to mouth and such a decision by council would adversely affect them.    
Hlanze said they were breadwinners and took care of orphans and their sickly relatives and could not afford to look after them if they did not wake up to sell their fruit and vegetables, something they did on a day to day basis.


Also she said they had debts to pay, including rent.
The vendors also mentioned that they had already made an attempt to space themselves as per government’s directive of keeping one metre apart.
Meanwhile, Council Assistant Public Information Officer Siphesihle Nkwanyana said the decision was not a personal attack on the vendors.
Nkwanyana said vendors were their biggest stakeholders and their health was very important to them.


She said they understood the concerns raised by the vendors but the situation was not an ordinary one, thus it had negative effects, especially on the vendors themselves if they were left to conduct business as usual.
“We are trying to support them as much as we can by not shutting them down,” she said.


Nkwanyana said the idea of rotation by council was in consideration of the fact that families should live despite the situation, so that they did not close up completely.


Further, Nkwanyana said government called for the reduction in numbers on all operations, adding that even those who would be at work would be doing so with minimal staff.


Complying


“This is a crisis and emergency that needs to be treated as such. Council is simply complying with government sanctions of the partial lockdown which emphasises minimal movement, whether it is retailers or shoppers.”
Nkwanyana urged vendors to work with them as they endeavour to protect their lives and their families.


Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade Communications Officer Thabile Mdluli referred all questions to the municipality.
Meanwhile, Minister Khumalo was explicit that informal traders should be allowed to operate so long as they adhered to the one metre distancing and did not have crowds of over 20.

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