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Mozambique: Maputo (Mozambique)


The Mayor of Maputo, David Simango, meeting on Wednesday with a large number of informal traders, declared that the City Council is not opposed to the informal sector, and that the measures it is taking are merely intended to discipline informal trade so that it does not endanger other interests.

In late February the council gave the informal vendors 48 hours to get off the city's pavements. But the Council soon backpedalled, saying that the intention was only to stop people selling outside schools, hospitals and other sensitive establishments. Simango said he never intended to shut down amount street trading.

On Wednesday, he said the government had no intention of closing the sprawling informal markets known as Estrela, Mandela 1 and 2, and Museu. But the Museu market (so called because it is adjacent to the Natural History Museum) is within a stone's throw of two largest educational establishments - the Maputo Commercial Institute and the Josina Machel Secondary School.

It is difficult to see how the Council can clear informal trade away from the vicinity of schools, from now on allow the stalls and informal bars of the Museu market to continue operating.

Simango repeated his claim that there are over 80,000 informal vendors in the city, and argued that their activity sustains themselves and their families, creates jobs and contributes to economic increase and social stability.

"We are not against the activity of the informal sector, since we know that people are selling on the streets not out of pleasure, but as a question of need for their survival", he said. "But we have to find ways of developing informal trade without creating problems for everybody else".

Among the measures ordered by the Council, he explained, was that vendors in the central among of the city must clean up the streets where they operate twice a day, rather than the previous arrangement of twice a week.

"Now there are areas where products cannot be sold, such as outside schools or hospitals or in front of defence and security institutions", Simango added. "And it's in these places where the owners have been notified to remove their stalls".

He urged the traders to respect municipal by-laws. These national that Maputo markets close at 19.00 and stalls outside the markets at 21.00. Those closing hours must be respected, the Mayor said, and anyone found with a stall open after 21.00 would be penalized.

"The best thing to do about by-laws is to respect them", he said. "Obeying the by-laws is obligatory. If the vendors disagree with the closing time, they should propose an alteration which can be discussed by municipal citizens and then submitted to the Municipal Assembly for approval".

But among the other city by-laws there is one that bans informal trade along several largest Maputo avenues. This by-law is quite disregarded, and currently the municipal police are making no effort to enforce it.

There were bitter complaints at the meeting against the municipal police, who were accused of seizing goods without any explanation of why, and without telling the vendors where their products were being taken.

Simango pointed out that the vendors can recover seized goods - but they have to be quick. The by-laws national that perishable goods are stored for three hours in the municipal warehouse, after which they are delivered to hospitals, orphanages, old people's homes and other social institutions.

Non-perishable goods are kept for eight days, and if the owners do not reclaim them within that time, they are sold at public auction and the proceeds revert to the national. When they reclaim the goods, the vendors, if they have been violating the by-laws governing trade, must pay a fine.

Some vendors complained of extortion and robbery by the municipal police. Simango said the Council condemns theft and policemen who behave in this way risk disciplinary action, and punishments that can include expulsion.

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