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Violence on foreign traders condemned

THE Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation have condemned the violence against foreign informal traders and the confiscation of their goods in Namibia and called on cooperation among vendors regardless of their nationality.

In a statement issued by their spokesperson Luise Mwanyangapo yesterday, the organisation condemned the recent incident in which the Native Small Traders Association attacked illegal foreign vendors and confiscated their goods at Katima Mulilo as way to eliminate competition.

Mwanyangapo condemned the fact that acts of violence on foreign vendors were being organised and executed by a fellow union.

“As Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset), we call for tolerance and peace, proper treatment and respect for fellow traders as we seek to transform the lives of all informal sector players regardless of their country of origin,” she said.

Mwanyangapo said now is not the time for informal traders in southern Africa to be divided as governments and local authorities can only begin to take them seriously when they speak with one voice.

He urged the Namibian government to adopt a more inclusive way of dealing with immigrant informal traders and vendors.

The attack on foreign vendors comes five months before Namibia and other African nations who ratified the Africa continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA) start trading among themselves on 1 July 2020.

Mwanyangapo said Viset is committed to improving the lives of street vendors in southern Africa and strongly opposed attacks on other vendors on the basis of their nationality.

“It is sad to hear that like-minded vendors and trade unions are adopting and supporting practices that advocate the confiscation of wares of foreign nationals,” stated Mwanyangapo.

She said their organisation recently adopted principles which are meant to prevent xenophobic attacks on immigrant informal traders.

The principles further encourage informal market vendors, street vendors and hawkers in different countries to engage voluntarily in trade with each other, and to develop suitable terms and conditions for such trade to their own advantage”.

She warned that it is important for those advocating discrimination and violence to note that many informal traders and street vendors are only trying to provide for their families in other countries, because of limited opportunities in their own countries.

“They remain one of the most vulnerable categories of workers, the majority of whom are women, as they also encounter violence and harassment from government officials and law enforcement agents on a daily basis,” Mwanyangapo said.

She said Viset considers such actions towards “our sisters and brothers” as brutal, unacceptable and in violation of their human, migrant and workers’ rights.

“We encourage like-minded organisations representing traders and vendors in Namibia to engage and work with the Namibian government to develop reasonable policies and measures to provide everyone with an opportunity to work in a freely chosen activity, in order to secure a decent living and safe working space,” Mwanyangapo said.


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