Omuthiya – Omuthiya Town Council has received stiff resistance from small traders operating at the overcrowded Omatala open market after it issued an order to all vendors trading along the B1 road outside the market to move.
Council says it is unsafe for vendors to sell next to the road and does not present a good image of the town, but the order to relocate seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as some vendors are simply refusing to move.
Some vendors claim there is no more space within the market complex, hence they resorted to selling outside, a claim that has been rubbished by the council.
According to local economic development planner in the municipality David Israel, there is plenty of space within the market complex, but traders have opted to use it as a storage facility for their products, which should not be the case as they should store their goods elsewhere.
This appears to be a trend around the country, whereby vendors prefer to sell next to the road, because business is apparently more lucrative due to the number of people passing by, as opposed to being inside a confined market.
Around 400 traders operate from the open market, which is said to be overcrowded, although the exact carrying capacity is not known, as it is currently arranged in a free-for-all fashion, where anyone can buy and sell.
There are prospects that the number will increase, as traders from other parts of the country are coming on board to conduct business at the open market.
The only requirement to conduct business at the market is that the products one intends to sell must be inspected to see if they are socially accepted and viable.
The lack of strict control measures has left the council with few options, so it eventually resorted to requesting police assistance, although the police are unable to help much, as council is not the sole owner of the property where the traders operate from.
The police are also unable to identify who is operating illegally as all vendors do not have identification documents.
In addition, council does not have the necessary by-laws in place for regulation of the market, but it has lately started to draft such by-laws.
“The area where they are operating on is council land, but the property of the market belongs to the community, because it was a donation from an individual some years back. Thus, we don’t have much control as to what happens at the property,” council’s technical advisor, Simon Nghuulondo, explained.
Israel concurred with Nghuulondo, saying council is in the process of acquiring the property, so that it can be under its control, adding that for now council is constrained in terms of implementing the necessary control measures.
Another challenge pointed out by a committee member of the open market, Sesilia Imana, is the lack of consideration shown by some traders that she said do not take committee members seriously, regardless of what they tell them.
The one measure implemented by the council was to place poles to prevent vendors from sprawling over into the roads. They also chased away some street vendors, but this is not helping much, as the vendors return the very next – if not the same – day.
These were some of the issues deliberated on during the council’s stakeholder meeting on Wednesday to find a solution to the issue. It was attended by members of the police, councillors, government officials and others.