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Nasta defends ‘xenophobic’ acts

by Lugeretzia Kooper
THE clearing of the streets of illegal foreign vendors should not be viewed as xenophobia, but safeguarding the interests of the local street vendors, says the Native Small Traders Association (Nasta).

They made these remarks yesterday after the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) issued a statement last Thursday condemning Nasta’s decision to identify foreign vendors and confiscate their wares as a measure to eliminate illegal competition local street vendors face.

Yesterday, Nasta chairperson Simasiku Mulijani said Namibia cannot be a chicken that forgets its eggs and attends to other birds’ eggs. Therefore, when it comes to vending, Nasta will stand for Namibians first.

In their statement, Viset appealed for tolerance and peace, proper treatment and respect towards fellow traders in seeking to transform the lives of all informal sector players regardless of their country of origin.

“We believe this is not the time to be divided as informal traders in the southern Africa region. We are stronger together and governments and local authorities can only begin to take us seriously when we begin to speak with one voice, the Viset statement read.

That statement further noted that they are committed to improving the lives of street vendors in southern Africa and strongly opposed attacks on other vendors and traders on the basis of their nationality.

Despite Viset opposing Nasta’s stance, Mulijani said they will continue pushing illegal vendors into the drain if the influx continues at this pace and vowed: “We will clean our streets until every vendor is a Namibian”.

“We urge Viset to stop getting domestic before studying challenges of national vendors who are not receiving the southern African cake in the streets,” he said.

Mulijani said Nasta is not xenophobic because, as they sympathise with fellow Africans but warned foreign vendors that if they remain illegal, they will be reminded to go back home.

Viset reminded Nasta in their statement that “it is sad that like-minded vendor and traders organisations are adopting and supporting practices that advocate the confiscation of wares of foreign nationals. We as Viset consider such actions towards our sisters and brothers brutal, unacceptable and in violation of their human, migrant and workers’ rights.”

However, Milijani said they will not take Viset’s opposition as being personal because they understand that they are protecting their members’ interests and in this regard missed the meaning of Nasta actions and their intentions in Zambezi.

Mulijani further accused Viset of being one-sided as they are protecting foreigners above the interest of locals, forgetting that these foreign traders are intruders who damage the local economy as they do not invest in it.

He reminded Viset on their call for integration of informal sectors, not to forget that countries are governed by laws that are aimed at improving the lives of their citizens first.

“Viset must read the Namibia Investment Promotion Act to find out how inclusive and civilized we are as a nation. We want to build our economy to become better than the other economies where these immigrants are coming from, Mulijani said.

He added that Namibia on its own is already faced with high unemployment, poverty and inequality, therefore they see it fit to reserve the vending sector for those with national documents, in order to improve the poor citizens’ standard of living.

The face off between vendors representatives comes five months before the start of the African Continental Free Trade Area, (Afcta), which intends to scrap tariffs on 90% of products in five years and increase intra-Africa trade.

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