Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Johannes Martin has taken to parliament the plight of street vendors, saying despite them being an integral part of the country’s urban economy, they are living in uncertainty and insecurity.
Martin tabled the motion following hot on the heels of an incident in which a street vendor was seen attacking a police officer after she was allegedly found in contravention of the informal trading bylaw.
A video was circulating last month where a woman was intercepted by City Police officers while trading in the town.
Similarly, over the past few years, street vendors, of whom the majority are women, have been arrested for either not having trading licences or trading in areas not permitted.
“Most street vendors operate in places that lack infrastructure and services such as access roads, water, electricity, refuse collection, sanitary and storage facilities,” said the PDM leader while motivating his motion on Wednesday.
He said street vendors have been existing all around the world and they have always been persistent, regardless of the continuous attempts by self-centred regimes to suppress their operation.
“It is sad that the importance of street vendors in Namibia is disregarded. Our street vendors are living with uncertainty and insecurity,” he said.
Martin says vendors are a complement to the formal economic sector in the sense that the vendors source their stock from the established business.
“Their businesses help generate income for their households, thus enabling them to provide food for their families to pay school fees for their children and contribute to other expenses, which will eventually contribute to the GDP,” he said.
He added street vending plays a pivotal vital role in employment creation and generation of revenue for cities through payments for licenses, permits, fees and fines, as well as provision of low-cost goods or services to low-income earners.
Martin said lawmakers should accept and make peace with the fact that the suppression of street vending does not solve any problem – but instead, it increases and creates more problems.
“It gives birth to more unemployment and it contributes to a rise in poverty rate. Furthermore, the suppression of street vending activities will force our women into criminal activities such as theft and prostitution in search of basic survival,” he told lawmakers.
He, therefore, called on government to recognise street vending activities as an important aspect that contributes immensely to the economic development of the country through job creation, which lessens the poverty rate and criminal activities.
“I am advocating for the establishment of a street vendor organisation that will represent and protect the street vendors,” he said, adding that the organisation will help in establishing a good relationship between the street vendors and the authorities.
“This body will lead to the formulation of policies and regulations that will be rational to both the vendors and authorities,” he said.
“The body will assist in ceasing the current day-to-day embarrassing trends of authorities humiliating the vendors.”
He said to ensure the formulation of relevant policies and laws governing street trade, government must collaborate with other development partners to ensure the formulation and strengthen street vendors association in our local authorities to enable them to lobby for vendors’ interests in the context of economic reforms to take place across our towns.