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Street vendors’ COVID disbursement further delayed

Street vendors in Maseru

Sept. 2, 2020 3 min read

3 min read

MASERU - WHILE still maintaining their hope that the government will include them in the M410 million in Partial Risk Guarantee Fund for businesses affected by COVID-19, street vendors in Lesotho will have to wait a little longer before receiving their relief packages that were earlier promised to them by government.

Recent talk was that vendors will start receiving their packages as soon as last week, however, that has not been the case. In fact, they have to wait a little longer than expected before finally receiving such packages.

This has been confirmed by the chairman of Maseru Street Vendors Association Molefi Paneng in an interview with Metro on Tuesday.

Paneng said the major setback had been the flawed registration processes with regard to the accurate numbers of street vendors currently practicing and licensed in Lesotho.

Initially, he said the numbers were estimated at around 2 536 active street vendors in the country, but it had recently been revealed that the figures were incorrect as many people had been left unregistered.

These initial statistics, for instance, has pinned Mokhotlong as the only district which does not have even a single street vendor, the assumption which is far from the truth.

Due to some of these inconsistencies, it means all relevant stake holders have to restart the process of registration which now delays the entire process.

“We had a meeting with the Ministry of Small Business on Monday and it was agreed that the current registration of vendors is flawed and has to be critically looked into. This is because many people were left out, while Mokhotlong appears as the only district with not a single street vendor.

“So, we have to come up with a proper registration model as soon as possible in order to have everyone covered and to avoid further delays. We have another meeting on Thursday in an effort to come up with proper registration,” Paneng added.

Around the world, street vendors are among the most vulnerable to the ongoing economic turmoil wrought by the coronavirus. This is because most street vendors work to earn money for the next day and not for the day after. But since the coronavirus pandemic, they have been struggling to make ends meet.

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Last week a group of street vendors in Maseru took to the streets, embarking on illegal protests, demanding the COVID-19 relief packages as promised.

Some innocent shops that were not part of the protests were affected. But police were quick to intervene and dispersed the protesters.

The Street Vendors Association was however quick to denounce any participation in the protests but raised concerns over the delays in processing the relief packages.

Tšolo Lebitsa, chairperson of Khathang Tema Baitšokoli, said they were hopeful that they would benefit following Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro's 100 days report where he asserted that there was M410 million set aside for Partial Risk Guarantee Fund intended to assist all businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19.

He said informal traders had been immensely affected saying that they did not sell much due to COVID-19 as the economy had melted down adding that currently people only bought necessities which at the end of the day made some of the vendors to go home empty handed.

Lebitsa expressed a concern that ban of cross border movement had hit their businesses even harder saying that it was their wish that borders could be opened so as to allow informal traders to go to South Africa to get stock.

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