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Vendors brace for legal battle with council

by Staff reporter
07 Jun 2020 at 08:22hrs | Views
INFORMAL vendors who operate in Bulawayo's Central Business District (CBD) have engaged the services of lawyers, resisting their relocation to new sites by the city council arguing there was no prior consultation before the decision was taken.

The council closed down the once popular 5th Avenue farm produce market in April as part of measures to decongest the CBD in light of lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The council opened the street to vehicular traffic and advised traders who used to operate at the market to seek new designated vending sites in suburban areas.

However, the process seemed to not have satisfied traders under the Bulawayo Upcoming Traders (BUTA) who have, through their lawyers, R Ndlovu and Company Legal Practitioners, demanded that the council explain how it came up with the resolution to close the 5th Avenue market.

In a letter addressed to the Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, that was shown to Sunday News last week, BUTA argued that they were licensed to sell at the market and that council did not properly communicate with them when it ordered the removal of wares and structures.

"We are instructed to demand who made the decision to relocate the vendors who are lawfully occupying 5th Avenue. If it is the councillors, minutes of the meeting are requested. What criteria will be used in downsizing the number of duly licensed vendors in different vending sites?" reads the letter dated 3 June 2020.

The traders said they learnt of their impending relocation from the CBD through social media channels, a situation that compromised some of their members who failed to heed the call as they were on lockdown.

"Our client is an association of duly licensed traders within the established vending sites in Bulawayo. It advises that some time during the first week of April 2020, they learnt through social media that council through the department of housing was calling them to remove their wares since the council wanted to fumigate the city. Some of our client's members responded to this call and some did not because of failure to get the call timeously and lockdown travel restrictions.

"We are further advised that on or about 26 April 2020, you issued a statement that circulated on social media to the effect that 5th Avenue will with effect from 3 May 2020 be opened to normal vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This notice was issued without consultation with our client or client's members who are interested parties as they occupy duly registered trading bays there."
BUTA maintains that they tried in vain to meet council officials.

"Our client advises that they have tried to arrange a meeting with you but to no avail. On or about the 4th of May 2020, our clients had a meeting with some council officials who advised them that all vendors along 5th Avenue will be relocated. They were further advised that the number of vendors in other vending sites will also be reduced. The procedure of relocation and cutting the numbers in other sites was not given. Another meeting of the 15th of May 2020 ended in a deadlock," read part of the letter.

Previously, the traders have vowed that they would return to their vending bays.

BUTA secretary Mr Dumisani Ncube said the vendors risked losing business if they are relocated. He said the proposed new sites did not have business potential.

The traders were suggesting that the council must just re-arrange the vending bays to maintain social distancing.

The town clerk is on record saying the closure of the 5th Avenue market was necessitated as a mitigation measure to control the spread of communicable diseases like the novel Covid-19. He said the closure of 5th Avenue was a town planning issue to prevent the spread of commutable infectious diseases.

Source - sundaynews