MASERU — At least eight vendors from Ha-Matala were left in the open after a businessman demolished their stalls yesterday morning.
The businessman identified only as Charles hired a bulldozer to destroy the shacks saying they were near his business premises.
Charles has constructed a building and wants to operate a shop.
The stalls that he allegedly destroyed are in front of the building.
The vendors, who have been operating in the area since 2005, said they had lost their merchandise during the demolition.
They had turned their stalls into kitchens from which they were selling prepared food.
Some were selling fruits and vegetables.
They said Charles had earlier asked the Maseru City Council (MCC) to order the vendors to remove their shacks.
The city council, the shattered vendors said, was resolving the issue when Charles hired a private company to demolish the stalls.
They said the city council had ordered them to replace the metal shacks with moveable tents which they could pitch in the morning and remove at the close of day.
The vendors said after realising that the businessman was not satisfied with the council’s decision they approached area Chief Tšeliso Matala for intervention.
Matala then wrote a letter to the MCC insisting that the vendors had a right to operate in the area.
One of the vendors ‘Matšotetsi Tšese told the Lesotho Times that they had sent the second copy of the same letter to the MCC on Tuesday.
They had all signed their names on the letter as requested by the MCC officer.
On Tuesday afternoon they got a message that MCC officers would come on Thursday to resolve their dispute with Charles.
But while they were in the process of complying with that order Charles decided to raze down the shacks, destroying their merchandise in the process. Tšese said they were surprised yesterday morning when a bulldozer started demolishing their shacks.
She said some of the vendors had “not seen it coming and so had prepared for business as usual while everybody was waiting for a meeting with the MCC officers”.
Some vendors were still crying over their destroyed property and goods when this paper visited the place.
A 50-year-old vendor ‘Manthati Tieli was in tears as she narrated how her goods worth a “fortune” had been crushed by the bulldozer.
Tieli, a widow, said she lost money and airtime vouchers worth M200 after the bulldozer knocked down her shack.
“I cannot believe this man has done this to us,” said tearful Tieli.
“I lost money and some goods. This is my only source of income that I used to look after my five children.
“He has no right to remove us. We were not working on his land. We were told by the MCC officers that the shacks needed to be not less than three metres away from his premises,” Tšese said.
MCC public relations officer Lintle Moerane said they were surprised when a report came that Charles had destroyed their shacks.
Moerane said a report came just when the officers were preparing to go and inspect the area pending negotiations.
“It is the MCC that removed the shacks. We were negotiating conditions that would be favourable to both ntate (Charles) and the vendors.
“Vendors are not allowed to build immovable structures for their businesses. However they were far beyond the two metres from ntate’s fence which is acceptable to the MCC.
“Still vendors are not supposed to build permanent structures in the places provided by the MCC. They should just put up stalls that they would take home with them at end of business day,” Moerane said.
She said she was not in a position to say if any action that would be taken against Charles.