THE Minister of Small Business Development, Chalane Phori, has expressed gratitude to the ruling four party coalition for availing M10 million towards the construction of street vending shelters.
The minister, who spoke at the official handover of 125 shelters which are two-metres in length to the Ministry of Local Government this week, said the gesture was a clear indication of the government’s intention to recognise the role played by the small business sector as a major economic driver.
The project of constructing the shelters, which was initiated by the Ministry of Small Business Development through the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), started last November and will supply the shelters to Maseru, Leribe and Mohale’s Hoek towns.
According to Mr Phori, street vendors in Maseru are set to get 261 shelters, while those from Leribe will get 256 and their Mohale’s Hoek counterparts will get 323 when the project is complete.
He also indicated that out of the M10 million that was allocated to the ministry, M4, 5 million has so far been used to produce 840 shelters due to time constraints.
The shelters are built through the help of graduates from the Lesotho Opportunities Industrialisation Centre (LOIC) to empower them and also through procuring materials from local suppliers in each district in line with the Buy Local campaign.
Mr Phori, who is a self-proclaimed product of street vending, further said the shelters would come in handy to small enterprises, as at that level of doing business many do not have the resources to purchase shacks.
“I therefore want to thank the government for endorsing the M10 million funding that the Ministry of Small Business requested for to develop small businesses,” Mr Phori said adding: “This will play an important role in the development of small enterprises”.
For his part, Local Government Minister Litšoane Litšoane said the shelters would play a significant role in improving the level of tidiness around the country’s streets, which would in turn boost the country’s tourism attraction profile.
“One of the first things I immediately set out to address when I came into office was cleanliness around our towns as I found them untidy,” Mr Litšoane said.
He further said garbage, which is littering the city’s streets, should also be seen as an opportunity to make a living as its recycling has a potential to create jobs.
On behalf of the beneficiaries, the chairperson of Maseru Street Vendors Association, Molefi Paneng, said the gesture shows that the government is finally willing to listen to the needs of street vendors.
“For a long time, different governments have promised to provide shelters but finally we have something. We were not very happy for being overlooked but now this gesture will go a long way in restoring our trust in the government,” he said.
He also said that, to its credit, government has also become less aggressive in its approach to street vendors who are caught on the wrong side of the law.
The chief executive officer of BEDCO, ‘Makatleho Mataboee, said availing the shelters to street vendors would facilitate display of different wares each vendor sells, which boots their visibility.
“We would be really happy to see you small enterprises graduating to higher levels of business for even better contribution to the country’s economic development.”
Maseru Town Clerk, Moeko Maboee said the intervention was timely since the Ministry of Local Government, which is their custodian, has been unable to provide the shelters due to financial challenges.
Mr Maboee also appealed to the recipients of the shelters to use them for intended purpose and not illegally sell beer as some have done in the past. He said orderly street shelters also facilitate smooth flow of traffic around the city.