Gaborone City Council (GCC) may soon begin its controversial mass eviction of most market vendors across the capital city, whom it has accused of various acts of non-compliance. Staff Writer TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE this week met some of the dozens facing an uncertain future
Thoughts of the yellow monster have hung over the hundreds making a living off the Gaborone City Council’s market stalls, since last June. In that month, the council told vendors to prepare for removal from the stall due primarily to the amounts they owe the local authority.
“Ka jalo ba kopiwa go bo ba ntshitse dithoto tsa bone mo dimausung e bile ba buseditse dilotlele ko go ba lephata la Commercial Affairs ko Khanseleng,” reads the notice, which covers all occupants of GCC stalls.
The Council now says a March meeting will decide whether they face forceful eviction.
The local authority says the market stalls, located in areas such as the BBS Mall, the Bus Rank, Ginger, Railway Station and others, are rife with illegal occupancy, truant leaseholders, subletting and grievous non-payment of rentals.
At BBS Mall, some vendors tell Mmegi that they are hoping to negotiate with the council to locate another place from which to trade.
The vendors suspect that the local authority’s actions are driven by a desire to renovate the market.
The vendors there are deeply concerned as they say they need premises where they can prepare their meals, unlike vendors who are involved in selling wares such as clothes.
BBS market has 30 stalls, but only eight of them are operational while 22 are locked. The council is still tracing the people who used to operate them as the leaseholders left without returning the keys. Vendors are paying rentals of P668 per month to the council. “Our customers are here and the place was nearer to them,” Maureen Zigwa tells Mmegi.
“I cannot afford to rent someone’s restaurant. The rental for GCC was reasonable even if council was not doing some of the things in our agreement.
“I have not seen any place that I can relocate to.”
Oageng Moedi, who rents a stall through someone else, says the most painful thing in his situation, is that the council does not communicate with him directly and hence he is in the dark about whether the primary leaseholder has arrears or not.
“Even though the place is not that profitable, its rental was reasonable. Operating my business here, I would sometimes boost it by catering for small companies after winning tenders.
Another vendor asks to remain anonymous and has a serious gripe with the local authority.
He says while vendors have been paying their dues, the council has not honoured its end of the agreement.
“Our public market was supposed to have a security guard, was supposed to be cleaned by council and supplied with dustbins for waste, but council has failed to honour that agreement.
As you can see, this place is dirty and when we complain, council threatens that it will increase rent.
“Most of the times, we prefer not to complain because we are desperate for these stalls. I have been operating here for the last 15 years and yes I have arrears, but they are not that much,” the visibly angry vendor says.
He believes the local authority should have negotiated with them rather than taking drastic action. At the council’s market in Ginger location, vendors there are shocked about the impending eviction, saying the local authority recently increased rentals from P85 to P2,000 without consultation.
“There are many issues that we raised in the past,” a woman manning one of the stalls tells Mmegi.
“The fight between vendors and council dates back to 2009.
It is not the first time that council has threatened to evict us and it usually does that when we have a dispute or have raised a complaint.”
The woman continues with some revelations. “Last year, GCC used its attorney to lock our stalls without consultation.
“Our lease agreement expired in 2010 and it has not been renewed. We had meetings where council promised to renew our lease, but to date nothing has been done.”
Stella Thebe, who rents through a third party, says she believes the stall had arrears, even though she had kept up her payments to the leaseholder.
“I am still looking for a place to rent because council is clear that it will evict those who have been renting through other people. It is illegal to do so,” Thebe says with resignation.