Police fired teargas to disperse vendors in Limbe, Blantyre yesterday as they jostled for second hand clothes at Nyenyezi Traders, the only shop that has stocks.
One of the traders Alex Kalimanjira appealed to the government to soften up on its stance to let wholesalers sell at the old price to avoid further violent incidences.
“We call on government to open the shops because it seems they made a decision without a solution. Right now there is only this shop the whole of Blantyre and people are struggling like this,” Kalimanjira said.
The government’s decision to order wholesalers of second hand clothes to reduce prices after it removed duty on the merchandise is facing resistance from some traders, which has resulted into the mayhem at the only selling point at Nyenyezi Traders.
In the 2012/13 budget, the government removed duty on second hand clothes and ordered traders to likewise reduce prices, a development which prompted some wholesalers to close shop as they protest against low prices.
A female vendor who had sustained some bruises during the stampede bemoaned the government’s decision but also accused the police of receiving bribes to favour some people so that they could beat the queue and buy the commodity.
“We would rather government allow these people to sell us the clothes at whatever prices as long as it is found.
“It is us who are struggling, but you find that some policemen are receiving money to assist others to buy while those of us who do not have enough money are spending hours on the queue,” she said.
Reacting to the development, Trade and Industry Minister John Bande said the government will not give in to the trader’s demand because it is its deliberate policy to reduce prices of goods in the country.
He further warned that traders who will not cooperate with government are free to close their shops and leave the country to allow others conduct fair trade in the country.
“If they are saying they want to keep on selling clothes at high prices then they should close and leave the country. The government removed duty which means it needs prices to go down so it expects traders to reduce prices as well.
“This is a liberalised economy and if they don’t want to cooperate they can close their shops and many others will come in to open shops,” he said.
He, however, said the government regrets the incidents where some people were injured as they scrambled to buy clothes.
“As government, we apologise for what happened and if there are any people who have been injured during the fracas,” Bande said.
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