Reprieve for street vendors



MASERU – Street vendors selling essential goods have been granted the opportunity to operate from 8am to 2pm during the ongoing lockdown. This comes after street vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the streets of Maseru pleaded with the government to revise the lockdown regulations and allow a certain number from their sector to operate.

Manthabiseng Mabula who has been a street vendor selling fruits and vegetables for three years had earlier told Public Eye they felt marginalised by the government. She said they were expecting the same treatment as other industries that have only been given opportunity albeit at a lower scale.

Mabula said since the beginning of the lockdown, the government has only shown support towards big businesses and allowed small businesses to sink by denying them the chance to operate. “We were hoping that like the taxi industry, retailers and wholesalers that sell essential goods, a certain number of us will be given permits to operate but we were all send home initially so this development is most welcome.

“We do understand that the lockdown is done to protect us from contracting this deadly virus, but selling on the streets is our only way to put food on the table. If we continue staying at home we will be safe from this virus but will die of hunger together with our families. After the lockdown was relaxed for their sector, Mabula expressed appreciation to the government saying at least she will be able to feed her family.

She said even though business is slow and she is starting with very limited stock, she has hope that eventually her business will pick up. She said the initiative will help rebuild and grow a majority of businesses that have been struggling to grow over the years due to financial challenges and those that collapsed due to the lockdown.

However, she noted that this kind of support takes time to reach recipients and in the meanwhile they will be struggling to grow their damaged businesses. She also said she would not raise her hopes high because in initiatives like these, favoritism is normally a problem and as a result the support fails to reach people that it is supposed to reach.

“I would rather work hard to ensure that I rebuild my small business which has already collapsed. If I get the support, it will be a bonus,” she said. The government has established a COVID-19 economic relief fund where among others Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise(MSMEs) registered with relevant authorities will be eligible for a once-off matching grant of up to M5 000 each.

Companies that are allowed to operate during the lockdown are those that offer essential services as per the government gazette. These include pharmacies, petrol dealers, mortuary, general cafes, super markets, mini markets, wholesalers, transport and logistics, butcheries and bakery that operate under a stipulated time frame. The lockdown has been extended and is expected to come to an end on the 5th May 2020.


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