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Street vendors and their supporters on Monday blocked Mozambique’s main north-south highway (EN1) in the town of Macia in the southern province of Gaza.
The vendors were protesting against the municipal authority’s decision to move them from the roadside to a new market.
The disruption to traffic began at about seven in the morning when municipal police attempted to remove the stalls.
According to the newspaper “O Pais”, this provoked the stallholders to place barriers in the road. Flaming tyres and other obstructions stopped the movement of traffic and stones were thrown.
The demonstrators then descended on the council offices where windows were broken. An attempt to attack the official residence of the mayor was thwarted by the arrival of the police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
“O Pais” reported that the cause of the violence was the arrest of some of the vendors. The provincial police commander, Zito Maconha, then intervened to release the individuals in order to calm the situation.
The mood of the crowd then darkened after a youngster was allegedly injured by a shot. Maconha confirmed that the police are looking into the incident to identify what happened and who was responsible.
The town’s mayor, Reginaldo Mariquel, expressed his surprise at the violence as the decision to remove the stalls has been public for some time. He lamented, “I am astonished by the protests, which are a response to a measure taken by us to move the vendors into markets. This is a measure that has been under development since last year”.
Mariquel said that steps have already been taken to register the stallholders so that they can be allocated space in the newly constructed market. He explained that an understanding had been reached that the informal stalls would be closed as from Monday.
He stressed that these measures have been taken to benefit both sellers and customers, and to reduce the road accidents that have taken place in the town. In addition, the products will be sold in a better condition as they currently sit in the sun for long periods.
One of the complaints of the vendors is that they will be forced to pay five thousand meticais (about eighty US dollars at current exchange rates) for stalls in the new market. However, Mariquel denied knowledge of such charges, stating “I do not have this information, the only fee that the vendors have to pay is the municipal tax”.
The protests came to an end in the evening following negotiations led by the police commander.Source: AIM / Miramar
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