TRADERS, especially street vendors in Lusaka’s Kanyama Township, yesterday ran amok, burning and destroying property. This is unacceptable.
The irate traders want the authorities to allow them back on the streets where they earn their living, needless to say which they have left filthy and unhealthy.
When the traders were driven from City/Soweto market initially, they allocated themselves space at the Chinika School ground as their temporary marketing place.
They were chased after a few days and they went to a place called Mobile along Los Angeles Road in Kanyama.
Faced with a situation where they now have nowhere to trade from, coupled with the curfew, it is like some Kanyama traders are now bottled up and took it upon themselves to challenge the law, hence yesterday’s running battles with the police.
Government is aware that many households have been hit hard by the well-intended measures of cleaning up the city, starting with the central business district, up markets, streets and townships.
When the massive clean-up exercise started, most people expected that it would last only a few days and they would return to their stalls.
However, given the amount of filth that was involved, the exercise has taken longer than most people expected and is now eating into the patience of most traders.
The riot in Kanyama yesterday is a perfect example of impatience by some traders who want to blackmail and malign the State.
Since Government is aware that most people depend on business for a living, there should be other channels of traders expressing their grievances or engagement.
Riots have never been known to be channels of dialogue but only worsen the situation, cause extensive damage to property and at times human casualties.
Through the riots, we see some citizens not necessarily protesting about lack of trading places but resistance to change.
The current clean-up exercise is designed to restore cleanliness as well as to foster a mindset change and attitude towards hygiene.
Citizens, especially traders, should always appreciate that an emergency must be treated with emergency.
Some traders expected to be allowed to continue going about with their business as the defence forces and security wings cleaned up the city.
However, it is almost impossible to curb cholera alongside filth, illegal makeshift markets and vending of the magnitude seen in Lusaka.
Ultimately, one variable had to suffer because it is either the city was swept clean or our citizens continued to die of cholera.
It is therefore surprising that traders are now saying they would rather continue doing business and risk dying of cholera than endure a couple of weeks of belt-tightening.
The danger of rioting also is that some mischievous people may take advantage of the situation to perpetuate criminal activities.
Riotous behaviour has the potential to alarm the world and take away the credentials this country has enjoyed of being stable and peaceful.
There is also need for the local authorities to expedite the identification of sites to which the traders should relocate.
Most of the thousands of traders depend on this business of vending to sustain their living and it could be understandable that their patience is running out. There is, however, no justification for them getting violent.
Whatever location that will be, it is evident that most Lusaka residents are in agreement that this must never again be on the streets of the central business district.
The protection of the health of the more than 1,200,000 people who crisscross the city of Lusaka should be the paramount concern for the authorities.