Hundreds of Moi Market traders in Thika Town have demonstrated over the allocation of a leisure garden located in the town centre to hawkers who flooded the town since Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was declared the Jubilee Party prior to the August 8 election.
The traders argued that subdividing a leisure garden and giving the space to hawkers was wrong and probably a hidden ploy to convert a section of Mama Ngina gardens into private property.
They also said the beneficiaries did not deserve to be allocated space to do business since majority of them moved from Eastleigh, Ruiru, Kayole and Githurai during the campaigns season when no one would question them.
Daniel Mburu Muchiri, a trader, said Moi Market has many unoccupied stalls which the hawkers had refused to rent out opting for the cheaper option of laying their wares on Thika streets and in the process blocking customers from accessing shops within the town.
“We have over 1,000 unoccupied stalls in Mukiriti, these hawkers should join us and rent out space as we do. We can accommodate them before (Governor) Waititu sets up the larger open air market he promised us recently,” said Mburu.
On Sunday night, unknown people subdivided half of Mama Ngina gardens into small 300 plots of 10 by 10 metres and allotted them to the said hawkers.
The boundaries marked with chalk could be seen on Monday morning complete with numbers as per the list of the beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries on the other hand said that Moi market traders were demonstrating over fears of losing out their customers to them.
However, they complained that they would not all fit in the garden since they were more than the available space.
They added that the sub-divisions were not done properly since in normal circumstances, each of the plots would accommodate five hawkers.
“The division was done at night and those allocated [space] urged to construct their own stalls. Without the stalls, each plot can easily accommodate 10 persons since all we do is lay out our wares on a sack for sale. Some of us missed out and we have nowhere to go since we were told to stop selling our wares (on the streets) in town,” said Josephine Wanjiru.
Fred Mwangi, on the other hand, said the space would have only been enough for genuine hawkers who have for years been selling their wares in the streets of Thika Town.
“What we have now is a mixture of hawkers including those evicted from Eastleigh and other towns. We cannot all fit in,” said Mwangi.
Moses Njuguna said the idea to allocate them the gardens was good since for a very long time the garden had been idle and in worst cases turned into a den of thieves, rapists and street children.
“We want the land put into good use by turning it into a space where we can conduct businesses. The land will remain public and we will not demand for its title deed,” he insisted.
Governor Waititu, while trying to calm down the two teams, agreed that most hawkers flooded Thika during the campaigns season.
He told them the season is over and everyone is supposed to return to where they used to sell their wares from.
“I know some came from outside because they saw a market here. Hawkers who have been in this town for long are very few, they are also known. Now that the campaigns are over, let everybody go back to where they came from,” he told them.
He reminded them that he promised them a larger open air market but asked them to accommodate each other at Moi market in the meantime.