Give us a break – vendors to police

PROTEST … Street vendors in Windhoek carry out a protest, calling for an end to alleged police brutality and unfair evictions.

Informal vendors in Windhoek yesterday raised concerns about evictions and police harassment they say they are subjected to.

Namibian Informal Sector Organisation (Niso) secretary general Kandenge Veripi led a demonstration in Windhoek to hand over a petition to the City of Windhoek and National Assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi.

Vendors around Windhoek are facing eviction at various points, he said.

“It’s one thing to tell people they cannot operate in those areas, but it’s another to send the police to evict them,” Veripi said.

He said the police are informal in the way they approach vendors.

“The pavement does not belong to a shop. They must allocate land to be operated on,” Veripi said.

In a letter addressed to Katjavivi, Niso said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the closure of businesses with no stimulus packages to protect the informal sector.

“This year informal economy operators became vulnerable again due to police harassment and the impoundment of goods. About 1 000 businesses reported closure by law enforcement,” the letter reads.

It says this has caused about 4 000 children to miss out on school and go hungry.

“Furthermore, the law-enforcement agencies continue to impound goods and detain and imprison these traders who are 90% women,” the letter reads.

Vendor Esther Andreas yesterday said she has been imprisoned more than five times and sleeps at Klein Windhoek Police Station.

“Where are we going to sleep? It is not so safe. I have three children whom I support,” she said.

Andreas said when she gets her goods back some are missing.

She said vendors are often fined N$2 000.

“We are tired of these tickets. We don’t steal, we don’t do anything, and some of these goods we take on credit,” she said.

Thomas Maria Ne, another street vendor, said the police injured her arm during a raid.

Confidénte last week reported that vendors at the flea market at Wernhil Park shopping mall in Windhoek are currently facing large debts, some of which have accumulated to N$120 000.

The report said vendors have formed a committee to represent them, with the committee saying 23 of 50 active vendors have been handed over to RedForce Debt Management.

Veripi and a group of street vendors headed to the City of Windhoek’s head office, where Windhoek mayor Queen Kamati awaited them.

Niso organising committee deputy chairperson Martha Amunyela and Veripi read their grievances to the mayor.

Amunyela urged action against the injustices tp which she said vendors are subjected.

Veripi said they would return to the mayor and her staff in two weeks’ time to review their petition.

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