THE minister of industrialisation and trade Lucia Iipumbu has singled out local authority delays as the reason funds reserved for assisting informal traders have been sent back to the finance ministry unspent.
Iipumbu said this on Tuesday at the launch of the operational guidelines for the code of conduct for the Namibian informal economy in Windhoek.
The book was compiled by the Namibian Informal Sector Organisation (Niso) in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
According to the minister, she wrote three reminders to local authorities to no avail until the budget allocation was sent back to the treasury because it was not utilised.
“We were given money when we submitted our findings on what the informal traders are going through. When I took office, I visited all the informal traders in Windhoek, to inspect them, due to an overwhelming outcry by informal traders, especially concerning the law enforcement agencies evicting them from their trading areas,” she said.
The minister said issues such as brutality or confiscation of street vendors’ products by law enforcement officers will be deliberated on and the ministry will engage the police.
Niso secretary general Veripi Kandenge said: “We are seeing cases of municipalities sending law enforcement officers to effect the law without educating our informal traders. This book was done in consultation with all the stakeholders such as the law enforcement agencies and municipalities to find a way of working together.”
Kandenge said today, the informal economy is a place of enterprise, innovation and creativity.
“While it stems from the need for employment and livelihood, it contributed to the generation of jobs and the provision of local goods and services,” he said.
Lawyer John Nakuta said: “Those in power, be it at national, regional or local level, must know that informal economy operators are not criminals. These are honest people who are trying to make an honest living.”
The lawyer added that the informal traders must be treated with respect and dignity.
“If you are dealing with the poor, make justice accessible, speedier and cheaper. emphasise litigation and embrace and institutionalise alternative dispute resolutions,” Nakuta said.
He said in the case of confiscating of informal traders’ goods, the new code of conduct book says municipalities must come up with confiscation tribunals.
The book calls for the establishment of an informal economy ombudsman’s office responsible for handling disputes between informal operators and authorities.
Adeline Mukuve, a street vendor operating in front of Shoprite in the city centre, said the City Police is always arresting her and confiscating her goods.
“The police think we are not doing anything for our families. We are paying school fees for our kids,” Mukuve said, adding that she does not want her children to suffer like her but to study for a better future.
“When they see us pushing trolleys in the streets, they think we are joking. I have a N$6 000 fine and a warrant of arrest with the police. If they arrest me, who will feed my children?” she asked.
Michael Heita, a board member of Niso, requested law enforcement agencies to cancel the fines given to street vendors.
“Many of them are on warrants of arrest and are having fines of N$10 000 to N$20 000. We are requesting the police to please cancel these warrants of arrest and fines,” Heita said.
Another street vendor who only identified herself as Ester, operating in front of Katutura Shoprite, said.
“Recently, they confiscated my new stock that was worth N$3 900. I was not selling it, it was still in its boxes but they took it. I have many cases with the police and some are still pending in court,” she said.
She said when she went to follow up on the confiscated stock, the police told her to open a case, which she did but the file allegedly got lost.
“I have nine children and three grandchildren. How will we survive?” she asked.