The relocation of vendors from Engen service station in Tsumeb has been received with mixed feelings, with the majority lamenting the fact it will no longer be business as usual, as their target market was mainly commuters who stop to refuel and get snacks.
On Friday close to 100 vendors gathered at the service station, where they were informed by the Tsumeb Town Council that they will no longer be allowed to sell their goods at the service station for health and safety reasons. In a circular issued to the vendors by the municipality, they were given three days to vacate the premises or face the consequences.
“Three-day notice is hereby given by Tsumeb Municipality that any illegal informal traders at Engen service station must cease as from the 20-22 of this month. Any person that will exercise such activity at the above-mentioned area within the municipal boundaries is in contravention of municipal legislation,” it was stated in the circular.
Following this announcement, some vendors started to move hurriedly. They were temporarily moved about 50 metres from the service station where a cordon would be put up to avoid the vendors operating in the vicinity of the service station, while waiting for the municipality to build a standard open market where they can all be housed right opposite the service station.
The idea of having an open informal market was, however, not welcomed by some vendors, who said their main target market consists of travellers. “Customers are mainly using the Engen service station as a stopover, so they will not find time to run to the market, because it is far,” said a distressed Paulus Falaseline, who has been trading at the service station since 2004.
Falaseline claimed the new site is not safe, as it is close to a riverbed, further noting that there are no toilets, water facilities or lights.
“We used the toilets of the service station by paying, including [to get] water, but now the distance is too much. Even our products are no longer safe.” She said they are concerned about thieves – “as we have no storage facility, unlike before at the service station where we could leave the products there as there are lights,” Falaseline noted.
Another vendor, who has been selling at the Engen premises since 2007, Anna Sandu, also said she is not happy because they have moved away from the epicentre of their business.
One person in support of the move is Kasheeta Jekonia, a vendor who said: “I’m happy because the place used to be dirty. It wasn’t clean at all. Business-wise I’m hopeful we won’t be affected, because we’re not so far away from the service station.”
Meanwhile Lucas Boshoff, the managing director of Gateway Holdings which owns the Engen service station, emphasised the issue of safety.
“We’re working with a flammable product and you find some people are smoking at the service station. Are we waiting for an explosion or what? And another issue is that you find people running around the service station while cars are passing, which is very risky and we wouldn’t want an accident to happen. In that case who is to blame?”
Municipal officers are concerned about the potential economic impact, as the vendors are contributing to the town’s economy and that is why they saw the need to construct a market where informal vendors can do business.
There is, however, already an open market, Sida !Hanab, and a municipal trading area just a few metres from the service station, but it remains unoccupied, because the vendors refuse to relocate there, saying business is too slow at that market.