Monday, December 6, 2021

F/town market traders fight Council eviction

Over 60 traders at the Francistown’s central market are facing eviction following the city council’s decision to go ahead with planned redevelopment of the area.

This past week, efforts by the Francistown City Council (FCC) authorities to arrange a ‘meet and greet’ between the appointed contractor and the affected traders proved futile following a snub by the latter.

The new contractor – Amasa Civils Pty (Ltd) had wanted, amongst other things to iron out the differences between itself and the traders.

Amasa Civils was awarded a ground lease agreement to re-develop the central market by FCC on the 23nd of April 2021. Following the award, and intention to start work by Amasa, a big fight has erupted with the traders who are reluctant to give way for the new developments.

The traders are pointing an accusing finger at the city council for being heartless as it is failing to provide an alternative trading area. The traders also accuse the city council of making unilateral decisions without their involvement. As a result, the ‘tenants’ vows that they will not vacate the market.

Available records show that the affected traders were first given the eviction order from the market premises on the 29th of April 2021 to the 31st May 2021. According to a letter which the Sunday Standard is in possession of, all tenants were expected to bear the costs of removing all of their belongings upon vacation of each stall. They were also expected to disconnect all of their utilities or services from their stalls and clear all the accrued bills that may be outstanding and submit proof to their Tenants Association Chairperson Oduetse Mogomotsi Moleele who shall in turn submit the proofs to the city council.

The city council has stated in the same letter that the re-development of the place entails demolishing existing structures at any time from the lapse of the date in the notice. The city council has also warned that any other belongings that will not be removed from the premises will not be salvaged.

The businesses that are found at the central market include among others, tailors, technicians, agricultural produce sellers and food catering businesses. Francistown central market which forms part of the city history spans almost a century in existence.

After refusing to leave the premises, the traders were given another letter on the 4th of May 2021 by the city council where they were ordered to leave the premises. The city council informed them that “due to the growth of the city and demand for large scale commercial development and seemingly threadbare looking market area that failed to match the upcoming development area, there has been some interests from the private developers to uplift the market and the core of the city being the Central Business District,”.

Speaking to the Sunday Standard in an interview last week the Central Market Association Chairperson, Moleele said that the City Mayor Godisang Radisigo and other council delegates held a meeting with them last Tuesday to try and iron out their differences. He however said there was no resolution as the mayor pleaded with them to meet with the contractor to settle their differences.

“We held a meeting with the Mayor and his delegation but we failed to reach an agreement. The fact of the matter is we do not have any business with the contractor. They are the ones who have a contract not us. We will not meet the contractor and we do not need to. We only need them to listen to our side of the story and assist us as they are the custodians of the central market not the contractor,” he said.

Moleele emphasized that the meeting with the city authorities did not bear any fruits as it was clear that they did not have the plight of the traders at heart. He however said they rejected the city council and told them that they will not go anywhere until they are given an alternative place to operate their businesses from.

“What is even heartbreaking is that they told us that they do not have money to develop the area but the contractor is the one who has the financial means to do so. They said the contractor will develop the area and then find his own tenants until he gets all the money he invested in the project. They simply do not care about us. It is sad that they are now taking a public property that helps Batswana make a living and are giving it to a private company,” said a clearly disappointed Moleele.

FCC has since maintained its position that prior to signing a Ground Agreement with another contractor who failed the contract (Equality Properties Pty(Ltd)} in 2004, the tenants were relocated to other council owned market stalls such as the Bus Rank, Airport, Somerset and others to give way to Equality Properties Pty Ltd to commence the re-development project. Upon termination of Equality Properties on 2018, council then realized that there were some tenants who occupied the market illegally. FCC maintains that the tenants were consulted through their association on the envisioned council development.

“This correspondence serves as a warning to yourselves that there is a contract that binds parties and any breach by yourselves may result in litigation at your account,” reads part of the letter from the city council.

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