Dar es Salaam. Petty traders, popularly known as Machinga, from Dar es Salaam on Tuesday presented President Samia Suluhu Hassan with six pleas that they think if effectively dealt with they will go a long way to put many of the traders’ cries to a stop.
The traders submitted the pleas during a State House function in Dar es Salaam following an invitation by the Head of State who said she wanted to have a discussion with the traders’ representatives and see if they are on the same page with the government on the recently-concluded exercise of “arranging” the traders.
The controversial exercise, which has been criticized by some and lauded by others, involved removing the traders from areas that authorities saw unfit and taken to government-designated areas that authorities thought conducive for traders’ activities.
Tuesday’s meeting also came after two fires destroyed the traders’ businesses at the Kariakoo and Karume markets on July 10, 2021, and January 16, 2022, respectively whose real sources are yet to be confirmed as authorities continue to investigate.
Presenting the pleas on behalf of other Dar es Salaam petty traders, Yusuf Namoto, chairperson of the traders’ association asked President Samia to intervene in improving the areas that authorities have taken them to, pointing out that some areas have unfriendly infrastructure that prevents traders from doing their activities properly.
“Some of the areas lack passable roads, they have no power, water and no toilets,” said Namoto. “Others are without customers at all for there are no bus routes in those areas. Worse still, other traders are yet to be relocated since they were removed from their previous areas.”
Namoto also asked the Head of State to make sure that desks designated for dealing with petty traders’ issues in each district government office are improved so that some issues can be solved at district levels instead of seeking national intervention.
“We also ask the government to formulate a specific policy and regulations that will recognize Machingas,” Mr Namoto said. “[These] will ensure that Machingas obtain representations in various representative organs just like how it is the case with other special groups.”
He said through their collectivism, petty traders in Dar es Salaam have established Machinga Saccos Limited as a solution to many financial challenges facing petty traders in Dar es Salaam. Namoto asked President Samia if she can be so kind as to boost the Saccos fund by contributing a few shillings to it.
The petty traders of Dar es Salaam also want to have a share in the 10 per cent of the municipal fund released as loans to special groups. Machingas want this fund, as well as the one expected to come from the mobile money transaction levies, to pass through the Machinga Saccos Limited so that they too can benefit from the loans.
“We assure you [President Samia] that we have the ability to lend ourselves this money and make sure that we pay them back,” offered Mr Namoto assuringly. “Because we have a good database, which comprises information of each one of us, which we have been using to lend our members in partnership with the CRDB Bank, Equity Bank and Maendeleo Bank.”
The traders also propose that the National Housing Corporation (NHC) change the use of some of its houses by turning some of them into Machinga Malls where the small traders can be arranged and who will pay on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
“We have held some preliminary discussions with NHC Director-General [Dr Maulid Banyani] and we are waiting for an approval [for the plan to go ahead],” said Mr Namoto. “We think that if the plan wins an approval, it’ll contribute to the increase of NHC’s revenues.”
President Samia, on her part, said that her administration cannot afford to ignore these pleas that aim at ensuring petty traders enjoy smooth conduct of their activities, admitting that the government alone is not capable of providing solutions to the country’s growing population of unemployed young people.
“The government now officially recognizes this group [of petty traders] as one among [Tanzania’s] special groups, among the special groups under the newly-formed Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women, and Special Groups,” said President Samia.
She admitted that the exercise to arrange petty traders gave birth to its own challenges, including those presented by the traders’ representatives, but assured them of her government’s commitments to work on them for the benefits of both the government and the traders.
President Samia said it was the government’s goal to improve Tanzania’s private sector, which involves the country’s group of petty traders. She said her mission as a president is to make sure that petty traders settle in conducive areas and do their activities properly so that they can graduate from being petty traders to becoming middle- or large-scale traders.
“The end goal is to widen [Tanzania’s] tax base,” she pointed out. “This is why the government understands the issues raised here and we will do whatever it takes to work on them to ensure smooth conduct of petty traders’ business in Tanzania.”