Vendors evicted from Jwaneng mall

Hordes of vendors and hawkers plying their trade at the new Advent Shopping Complex in Jwaneng were shell-shocked Friday when they received notice to vacate the mall premises.

The mall owners, Advent Enterprises, represented by Thabiso Tafila, a partner at Minchin and Kelly law firm, issued the informal traders with eviction letters that bore an ultimatum saying move out or else---.

Mmegi is in possession of one of the letters in which the lawyers state that they have been instructed by the mall owners to request the vendors to vacate the premises with immediate effect.

The letter threatened that failure by the vendors to vacate the premises would result in the lawyers calling the police to chase  the vendors out and further make an application to court for an eviction order.

“The costs that will be incurred by us shall be borne by you. We hope it will not be necessary for us to adopt the above actions and that you shall pay heed to our clients’ request and leave the premises forthwith,” read the eviction letter.

The lawyers reminded the traders that the lease agreements between the owners and their tenants included a clause in which the owners of the mall undertook to prevent vendors and/or hawkers from occupying the premises that include the car park to sell their products and thereby blocking the space for customers of the tenants and actually taking business away from the tenants.

“That, despite the fact that this is a private property entrance of which is limited only to members of the public and prospective customers as well as customers of our clients’ tenants, you have taken up occupation of the car park and you are selling your products in the car park and in front of the shops belonging to our clients’ tenants,” read the letter.

Lesego Marumo, the chairperson of a committee formed by the vendors to address the matter, said they were shocked to receive eviction letters with no notice.

She noted that the reason they have remained where they are is because that is where they can get customers.

“They want to send us to a place that is far away and has no customers. Our fears are that our businesses might collapse if we go to that secluded place,” she said.

Marumo said they were collaborating with their Gaborone counterparts to try and find a way forward about this issue.

Oduetse Rebanna, a vendor selling vegetables in front of Choppies said the decision by the mall owners to evict them was unfair as the mall is the only ‘market place’ in Jwaneng that brings many people together.

“That’s where we can get customers since there are many shops in that mall. We count on the people who come to the mall to buy our vegetables with the change they bring from the shops,” he said.

Rebanna said he suspected that the owners of some big retail shops in the mall could be the ones who raised the complaints about the vendors.

“Owners of these big shops that also sell vegetables must be the ones that are complaining because they think we are taking their business.

“They should allow for competition. In fact, we can’t even compete with them since we sell small quantities a day,” he said.

Jwaneng mayor, Tsietsi Oodira-Kwenje weighed in on the issue Monday when said he was not aware the vendors had been served with eviction letters.

He admitted knowing of complaints about vendors by the mall owners last year.

 “We are not the landlords of that mall. But because we know the contribution that the informal sector makes to the town and the country, we requested mall developers to consider including vendors’ operational space when building malls,” he said.

Oodira-Kwenje also said as the council they have a challenge of operational space for vendors.

He added that the vendors should be allowed to operate in the mall since there is no other place they can go to.

Efforts to contact both the mall owners and their lawyer were futile as either their phones rang unanswered or they were off air.

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