Many Zambian government officials are proud to be co-hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly on August 24-29 along with Zimbabwe, however a number of citizens are complaining that they’ve been pushed aside during the preparations for the event.
In recent weeks, Zambia’s Ministry of Tourism, which is responsible for the event, have taken a heavy handed approach to the development and preparation of areas of Livingstone, which in some cases has involved destroying the businesses and means of livlihood for a number of small market vendors.
The vendors have seen their market stalls torn down by the government, while they have been moved to a different makeshift area in Livingstone, where apparently supporters and allies of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government have been given preferential treatment and property.
During separate interviews this past weekend in Livingstone, the vendors said they did not resist Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo’s plea for them to move from the streets to a makeshift market in preparation for the UNWTO general conference in August this year, but it was disappointing that PF cadres had hijacked the process of allocating space.
Recently, Masebo with senior government officials and an armed police battalion conducted a physical operation where she confronted the street vendors and asked them to leave the streets.
However, the vendors could not move to the main trading centre because it is being constructed ahead of the UNWTO, but a temporal place within town was identified for the meantime.
“We are very disappointed because we decided to move here in accordance with the minister’s advice but we are worried because PF supporters have taken over. The President has allowed street vending countrywide, including Livingstone, but we do not want to be seen to be standing in the government’s way for preparing for the conference and accepted to come here. The PF supporters have come to intrude here as if Zambia belongs to them alone and everyone does not see anything wrong with that,” said Lutangu Kwalombota, vegetable trader.
She said order was expected to prevail during the allocation of trading space, but those who do not have convincing evidence that they were PF supporters were being sidelined.
Mrs Kwalombota said more confusion and favouritism was expected during the allocation of trading space after the new market was completed.
“We have seen here that it is only those who have proof that they are PF supporters that can get a good service. We are going to have a situation where it is only PF supporters who will be given shops and stalls in the new market. Already, a list of PF supporters is being drafted as beneficiaries of trading space in the new market. This is not how things are supposed to be done,” she said.
Another trader Lydia Mwandwe said the trading area that had been provided should not tolerate people with political inclinations to infiltrate and encourage bickering.
She said some of the people who had invaded the place were known PF supporters while some of them did not even have any merchandise to sell.
“Some of the people who have come here are not even involved in any form of business, but are just here to cause confusion. Some of them have acquired space to rent out while some of them have erected stalls where they want to be selling shake-shake opaque beer. There will be so many illegal things, but the police are ignoring these things forgetting that this temporal market is still within town,” she said.
But a Bright Tembo, who identified himself as PF supporter said his party was in power and it was important that the youths and other members who fought for the party to form government had the audacity to benefit from public resources.
Tembo said the PF youths were planning to turn the temporal market into a permanent trading area because there would be inadequate space to accommodate all the people.
“We are entitled to the shops at the new market. We supported the PF and it is our time to benefit. In fact, we want this market to become a permanent market because there is a shortage of markets in Livingstone,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo failed by press time because she was attending a programme related to tourism development in Livingstone.