“We sell to help ourselves,” says a frustrated woman at ELWA Junction
Officers of the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) have a mandate to ensure that all street sellers in its corridor from ELWA Junction to Red Light are prevented from selling on the sidewalk, thus making way for free movement of pedestrians and vehicles.
That decision is at present affecting hundreds of youth who are involved in hawking essential commodities, including bread, soap and other household items for survival.
“I don’t want to steal,” said a 22-year-old man, who claimed he lives on his own and sells bread to be able to care for himself. He said he has nowhere to sell except on the sidewalk.
But PCC does not agree with him. One of the PCC officers, who agreed to speak on the issue on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said, “We are ordered to make sure that no one sells on the sidewalk.”
He added that he pities the condition of the sellers, but the order is an order and, therefore, they have been preventing the sellers from doing their business on the sidewalk since it took effect as of November 7.
As PCC officers yesterday evening appeared in their numbers at ELWA junction, the side-walk sellers, pursued by the officers, ran helter-skelter with their goods.
A frustrated young woman told the Daily Observer that she is not sure what the government wants them to do. “Here we are selling our market, but officers say we cannot do it. What must we do now? We cannot stop selling, because that is how we can take care of ourselves,” she said.
She said it seems that no one is interested in intervening to help them in what she described as “our suffering.” She said everyone knows that they have to survive because they have families to care for.
“We want to appeal to President George Weah to let someone look into our situation,” she said. “What should we do? We want to work, but we know that the government cannot employ every Liberian. So we doing our selling and the same government says you cannot do it here. What must we do now?”
Other sidewalk sellers told the Daily Observer that it is not fair for the PCC officers to be ceasing their goods, which are later found to have been shortened whenever the goods are returned to them.
“When they take your market, you will have to release it from them after paying their imposed fine; but all the time the market cannot be correct. We are being confused and we want President Weah to do something about it,” another woman said.
A young man, who said he was 24 years old, explained that there are some Liberians known in the country as Zogoes and Zogese, “but no one cares for those people. Here we are doing our own business and our own government cannot allow us to do it in peace,” he said.
Many of them complained that during the confusion that follows whenever PCC officers are trying to seize goods from them, several people sustain injuries. Also, thousands worth of goods are lost, leaving the losers to start life all over again but in debt.
“I thought this situation was going to change,” said Ms. Dorien Wollo, a sidewalk seller. “Now we know government is government no matter who is the President.”