by Hileni Nembwaya
IT was business as usual at the Ongwediva open market when heavily armed police officers, together with officials from the Ongwediva town council, sneaked up on the unsuspecting vendors on Saturday morning.
The police forced the vendors, who were preparing their stalls for business, to stop everything they were doing and closed their stalls without warning.
The seemingly distressed vendors, who looked on as the police closed their stalls, said they were busy laying their stalls while others were preparing cooked meals just as they always do.
However, the police immediately ordered them to close shop and vacate the open market.
One of the vendors, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, told The Namibian that she woke up early in the morning to prepare cooked meals for her customers at her stall because the town council did not warn them of the closure of the open market on Saturday and she was not aware of anything.
“I was busy cooking my meals around 07h00, only to see heavily armed police officers surrounding the market and ordering everyone to close down their stalls.
“The town council did not tell us anything and before that, on Friday, they issued out a statement informing us that we will be allowed to operate our businesses as usual. However, we will only be trading until 18h00. So, we thought we were not going to close any time soon.
“The police could not even allow us enough time to pack our staff and the council officials were just looking on without saying anything. Honestly, that was inhumane treatment and now most of our food items have gone to waste, especially the cooked meals. We had to throw away our cooked meals because we had no choice and the police were harsh towards us, we have suffered, really,” she lamented.
As a result of the forced closure, the vendors said their goods were damaged while those with perishable goods stressed that they were forced to eat their own food because the police would not allow them to sell their products.
Over 30 vendors were left stranded and ordered to vacate the open market until further notice.
Ongwediva town council public relations officer Jackson Muma confirmed the incident to The Namibian saying the council could not inform the vendors on the closure of the open market on time because the council had to act swiftly on the lockdown guidelines as stipulated by the government.
“We issued them (vendors) a statement on Friday stating that they will all be required to trade as usual until 18h00 every day but the terms could change any time soon. We told them to be prepared for a possible closure of the open market at any time and day, so we thought they had already prepared themselves well for such occurrences. All the open markets in the country were closed and I think our open market was the only one still operating in the whole country. We regret the harsh treatment but we had no choice but to lock down the open market with immediate effect,” he said.
As Namibia battles Covid-19, the government has put in place lockdown to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus by closing all the open markets, informal trading activities, shebeens, bars and night clubs in the whole country during the lockdown period.