By Hileni Nembwaya
WHAT once used to be known as a lucrative and attractive business centre, not only for locals but for foreigners as well has now turned into a war zone with street vendors calling out a warning of looming danger to their Angolan counterparts at Oshikango.
In recent weeks the northern border town has experienced an influx of Angolan vendors with a cocktail of goodies for sale ranging from fruits, vegetables, marathon chicken, wooden poles, sugarcane, Mahangu grain and old clothing amongst other items being sold at lower prices compared to that of Namibian sellers.
This has therefore triggered the anger of local vendors forcing them to convince the Angolans to increase their prices; however this failed as the foreigners continued selling their products at cheaper prices.
This is said to come at a time where unemployment continues to rise and push thousands of people into the informal sector at the border town.
According to the police the confrontation with the vendors yielded no results as many continue to fight with the local vendors threatening to ‘deport’ the Angolan vendors.
“We have tried to calm down the situation but the vendors do not want to comprehend. They continued fighting and insulting each other even in our presence. The Namibian vendors are afraid the Angolan vendors are snatching away their customers because many prefer to go for the cheaper products. If the Government does not intervene, the situation might get out of hand and get uglier,” said a police source.
Many of the Angolan vendors at Oshikango are said to be among the country’s poorest and vulnerable citizens who are employed by the rich and well off citizens.
An Angolan vendor that spoke to Confidente said that they (Angolans) came to Namibia to sell their items not to cause havoc.
“If they (Namibian vendors) do not want to cooperate with us and chase us from their country, we will also chase away their cattle in our country,” he said. The vendors who normally use public spaces in the border town as their workplace, with virtually no sanitation and storage facilities have now been moved by the Helao Nafidi town council to conduct their business at Katwitwi informal settlement at Oshikango.
Efforts to get insight into the relocation from the Chief executive officer of Helao Nafidi town council, Inge Iipinge proved futile.
However the Governor of Ohangwena region, Usko Nghaamwa told Confidente that the situation is now under control after the council granted them a temporary place to conduct their business.
“The Angolan vendors are conducting their business just like any other foreigners in the country. No one should chase them out of the country because they are not here illegally; they went through customs and immigration screening just like all foreigners. Our friendship with Angola came a long way and one should stand in our way,” said Nghaamwa.
Nghaamwa further urged the locals not to involve themselves in the matter as it is not a political one, saying that the residents should let his office handle the matter.
On Monday, Nghaamwa and the Angolan government leaders held a closed door meeting where they discussed amicable solutions to solve the matter. Another meeting with both countries is slated for next week at Cuando Cubango and Kunene province respectively.
“Politicians should not involve themselves in this matter; they should leave it to me to handle it. I am not going to allow the vendors to fight each other,” he said
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015