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Why the petty traders issue can’t be ignored

Friday June 18 2021
Traders pic

Pedestrians in Mwanza walk on a busy carriageway where the pavement has virtually been hijacked by petty traders. The scene is representative of the situation in most urban centres in the country. PHOTO | FILE

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Challenges regarding the management of petty traders - commonly known as machingas - are increasingly becoming vivid in major urban centres, prompting the need for an urgent solution by the government.

For the past few years, machingas have been left to occupy major markets across the country despite complaints from registered traders.

In most extreme circumstances, a machinga would lay out assorted merchandise infront of a licensed trader’s shop.

This would be irrespective of the fact that the machinga could be selling the same products that are being sold by the shop owner at whose door step the machinga has set a point-of-sales.

But in an attempt to ensure that the resettling of petty traders was conducted in a humane way, President Samia Suluhu Hassan earlier this week revoked the appointment of the Morogoro District Commissioner (DC), Bakari Msulwa, and the District Executive Director (DED), Sheila Lukuba.

Addressing the youth at the Nyamagana Stadium in Mwanza earlier this week, President Hassan said she was upset by attacks against petty traders, with their properties being destroyed by local authorities.

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“The other day I saw the Morogoro militia beating up petty traders and destroying their belongings.

“I was very saddened. I’m revoking the appointment of the the DC and the DED,” she said, adding: “Since there were other means that could be used to communicate with petty traders for safe relocation, I instruct the Minister of State in the President Office for Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) to act on this”.

But, while that had not died down, licensed traders in Njombe yesterday requested the government to relocate petty traders conducting businesses in informal places in the Sh10 billion-worth market, saying formal and petty traders were virtually selling the same goods.

During a joint session attended by Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) officials and the Njombe Regional Commissioner (RC), Marwa Rubirya, traders said the formal traders unfairly traded with machinga who don’t pay levies apart from the Sh20,000 they pay for a business ID card.

Mr Joseph Mapunda, a trader at the Njombe market, said traders owning stalls get fewer customers than machingas because they both sell the same products - but with the latter selling them more cheaply.

“Customers don’t come inside the market as they get their requirements from petty traders outside it,” said Mapunda.

RC Rubirya instructed that, despite the relocation of petty traders from the market, commuter buses should continue their routes to and fro in order to attract customers to the market whose construction cost billions of shillings.

“Also, the tendency by formal traders to provide products to machinga who then take them outside the market is unacceptable,” he said.

Similar concerns were raised by the Tanzania Business Community Secretary General, Abdallah Mwinyi, who told The Citizen that shop owners at the Kariakoo area in Dar es Salaam spent up to Sh5 million annually to pay government levies.

But, barely two metres in front of their shops, machingas holding a Sh20,000 ID cards freely sell the same products sold by shop owners.

“Worse still,” he said, “they are not given receipts when they buy merchandise from machingas. This denies the government public revenues.”

According to him, there were over 5,000 petty traders at the Kariakoo market, each of whom started business with an average of only Sh200,000 in capital - and pay no tacxes, no rent...

“The government should separately meet leaders from both formal and informal sectors, collect their opinions and use experts to make appropriate decisions including their relocation,” he said.

A Mwanza trader- Zuri Karim said petty traders also produce a large quantity of garbage without making significant contribution in their disposals.

“The government loses a lot of revenues due to business deterioration, therefore relocation of petty traders will benefit both the government, formal and informal traders,” he said.

The Mbeya Business Community Secretary, Mr Johnson Ntupwa said relocation of petty traders from the Mwanjelwa and Kabwe areas has permanently eliminated the problem in the region.

“The two areas were stubborn in the past years, characterized with theft and congestion that prevented smooth drive of an ambulance,” he said.

However, the newly appointed Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Amos Makalla told a meeting of councillors that he had come up with a petty trader’s re-arrangement plan.

“Nobody will be removed, despite the plan.

“I will hold talks with machinga leaders after my journey in Dodoma,” he said.

Addressing the youth in Mwanza, President Hassan instructed councils countrywide to ensure petty traders are relocated to areas where customers can easily visit.

She also reminded machingas to abide by laws, rules, regulations and directives.

But, Repoa senior researcher Abel Kinyondo said that the areas for petty traders should be prepared in a participatory way. They should be given incentives and informalities that allow medium-sized traders to use petty traders at their benefits should be broken.

“The compromise could also be introducing temporary markets where petty traders could be allowed to trade commodities within a specific time,” he said.

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