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Street vendors drag government to court over lockdown

A vendor in the streets of Maseru

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Street vendors have dragged government to court over its decision to prohibit them from trading during the 14-day total lockdown.

The lockdown was implemented nationwide by Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro at midnight on Wednesday because COVID-19 case numbers and related deaths have been accelerating after the Christmas and year-end holidays.

The lockdown is designed to limit people’s movements amid fears that the country health service could be severely overwhelmed by the COVID-19 cases unless the pandemic spread is minimized.

Medical experts believe that without a vaccine, staying home is pretty much the only intervention available to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.

People are only allowed to leave their homes to shop for the very basic necessities and to travel to and from work when absolutely necessary.

Public gatherings are banned and nonessential stores are closed.

In their court papers, street vendors argue that it is unfair that they are forced to close their businesses while supermarkets, which sell pretty much the same things, are allowed to trade.

They say there are no compelling or rational grounds to have closed their businesses when in fact, other businesses, big retails offering same goods, are allowed to operate.

They said: “There are no coherent reasons why onion, cabbage, tomato and apples are deemed essentials only when in the shops and nonessential when on the streets.”

They further argue that they are “placed at competitive disadvantage” to big shops for no good grounds.

“This act is not only ungodly but has no rational basis and deprives a street vendor opportunity to sell fruits and vegetables when another business entity is allowed to do the same,” they said.

Most of the street vendors live from hand to mouth.

They told the court that they face starvation as their livelihood has been brought to an abrupt end by the government through lockdown.

“There are no contingency plans to assist applicants notwithstanding the fact that their businesses are closed,” they said.

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