Editor's Comment

Councils must be proactive

VICTIMS sift through debris at Kapalala Market in Ndola’s Masala township after a fire swept through the facility destroying 3,000 stalls in the early hours of Wednesday. PICTURE: STAFRANCE ZULU

THE heartrending loss of goods worth millions of Kwacha in a fire that swept through Ndola’s biggest trading centre – Kapalala – is yet another reminder for Zambia to take proactive measures to curb such disasters.

Kapalala market which sheltered about 3,000 stalls was burnt to the ground in a fire which started around midnight on Wednesday.
This incident is devastating for the country considering that it comes barely two months after Lusaka City market was gutted.
As things stand now, Government is still in the process of mobilising funds to rebuild the Lusaka City Market as well as help the affected traders.
Against the target of K20 million required to rebuild the City Market, Government has managed to raise K13 million.
And now that Kapalala Market has also been gutted robbing over 3,000 families of their livelihoods, this only adds to the burden on the shoulders of Government to moblise more resources.
Regardless of whether the fire was an accident or not, many lives are at stake and something must be done.
It is therefore inevitable that stakeholders such as corporate entities, churches and non-governmental organisations come on board to help save many families from being sentenced to destitution.
It is irrefutable that in an era where white collar jobs are scarce, trading has become an alternative source of livelihood for many families.
From the lamentations of the victims, it is certain that many of them depended on their businesses to provide education, food, shelter and other basic necessities for their families.
It is our hope that in the spirit of patriotism and love, individuals, families, associations, churches, political parties and corporate entities will come forward to render a helping hand to the victims and indeed help rebuild the market.
While fires may be unanticipated, incidents like the Kapalala markets fire is a strong reminder on the need to be prepared for such.
The starting point is for local authorities to set standards for market structures to be built using uninflammable or fire resistant materials.
It is clear in both the City market and Kapalala market fires the inflammable materials used on the structures contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.
In the case of Kapalala the situation was compounded by the lack of space in between the shops to allow fire brigade vehicles to go in and quench the fire.
It is sad that because of the way the shops are closely built, a high powered team of fire fighters from four organisations – the Ndola City Council, Luanshya Municipal Council, Indeni and Zambia Airports Corporation Limited could not put out the fire in good time.
We know that traders’ focus is on making money and therefore want to maximize every space available in the markets to keep their businesses running.
They seldom, if at all, think about the consequences of putting up makeshift stalls so closely and haphazardly.
This is why local authorities should take the leading role in identifying trading areas and ensuring that markets are built to acceptable and decent standards.
Local authorities should be proactive to curtail mushrooming of makeshift stalls other than allowing people to build and come in later to regularise.
It is our hope that our local authorities across the country will draw lessons from the Kapalala market fire in particular to ensure sanity and decency in our trading centres.
In view of the increased and unanticipated fires in trading centres, it has become more imperative now than before for traders to insure their businesses. This is the only way to secure their livelihoods.
It is also our hope that insurance firms have woken up to the need to sensitise traders on the available insurance products and affordability.

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