By Bida Elly David
Custom Market has finally been opened after days of standoff between vendors and authorities over the allocation of market spaces to evicted vendors.
For the last four days, parts of Custom Market were closed and put under heavy police guard following a protest by street vendors. Three police officers were injured following a confrontation.
It started after the government of Central Equatoria State, the Juba City Council, and the University of Juba reached an agreement to allow the street vendors in Customs to use the University’s space to see their products.
This was meant to empty the Customs’ streets for the renovation of roads within Juba City.
However, despite the compromise with the vendors, the allocated marketplace was believed to have been unequally distributed to the retailers, which triggered the protest.
But the Police say the protest was started by some vendors who failed to secure a place after registration had already taken place.
Speaking after visiting the market, the Mununki Bloc Council, led by Director General Timon Wani, announced that the market was officially opened for businesses to continue as usual while allocation moves on for those who never secured.
Timon stated that the council issued land according to a formal list of vendors who were formerly registered with fees of SSP 104,500 for the issuance of temporary land deeds.
He stated that there would be no room for anyone out of the list to claim to have a space in the market unless otherwise.
He said monthly fees will be charged as revenues from the vendors according to the rate schedule passed by the city legislators.
“Monthly, we will take something small; we are going to charge them, according to our rate schedule passed in our council, if this year we charge them 25,000 SSP, may be next year we will charge more than that,” Timon added.
The director further emphasized that the hired piece of land won’t accommodate all the vendors if it is freely allotted.
“We are not charitable organizations, we are a council having its budget, through our budget, if we are giving out any shop or Kiosk to any vendor, they have to pay for it, there is nothing for free,” he said.
He urged the council to at least compromise with students and single mothers who struggle for themselves.
Wani underscored that the vendors will operate for two to three years according to their lease agreement with the University of Juba.
Despite the opening of the market, a crowd of vendors was seen occupying the main gate of the market struggling for space.
Some vendors disclosed that they were charged 300,000 for acquisition but the director denied saying it was not true.
It is believed that some vendors will miss having spaces because they can’t afford the land fees.
Maka Mustafa, a lawmaker at Central Equatoria State Parliament, urged city council legislators to look into the alarming situation facing the market and appreciate the governor and city mayor for the initiative of vacating street vendors for their safety.
“The city council has legislature where they legislate such issues, in case there is arising of an issue like that, they have to carry the matters of concerns to them,’’ she said.
She said the city council should come up with a concrete resolution over the concerns that have been triggered to avoid uncertainties.