Friday was the deadline Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) gave to city vendors to leave the street peacefully.
Vendors had returned to the streets during the election period as law enforcement officers were loath to antagonise “voters”. Now that the campaigns are over sanity must be restored.
Of course the vendors are not on the streets to entertain themselves, they are looking for an income to support their families and finance their own ambitions. Better that, than they turn into metal bar wielding thugs at night.
"It will be no consolation to the evicted vendors but they need to leave the streets for the good of the country. It is their patriotic duty...
Hernando de Soto in his book “The Mystery of Capitalism” sought to explain why capitalism works in some parts of the world and not in others. His conclusion is that for capitalism to work there have to be strong property rights.
That society recognises that when I own something it is mine and can only be transferred through mutual exchange of value or not at all. That the law and general practice recognises and defends these rights uniformly regardless of people’s status in society.
Land, from which all property is derived more especially.
If you think about it we do not really own the land we own – even if we have freeholds we have finite lifespans, but we have the right to the land to do with it as we see for the duration that it is in our possession. What we really own is the rights to the land. Now if those rights are hazy, people are not sure I own the land, or even if they know I do they are not sure I will tomorrow, the value of my rights to the land are jeopardised.
This is detrimental to how much I can invest on the land. Why should I plant hundreds of millions of shillings in brick and mortar on a piece of land I am not sure is mine?
So if I am a shop owner who has leased, not only the space to sell my wares but also the right to be the only one to do so in a given space, I expect that everybody should recognise this right, that I have a right to defend it and the right to call on the authorities to defend it as well.
So If vendors camp on my door step to do their business, even if they are not selling the same things as I am, I should be able to defend or have my right to my space defended. Because their presence infringes on my rights and therefore lowers the value of my shop not to mention leads to lower and lower sales.
The issue of whether vendors are on the street or not has far reaching consequences than inconveniencing shop owners and their clients.
"Because if the rights of shop owners are being infringed on then it will be ok to, squat on anyone’s land, seat in a restaurant and not buy anything but just enjoy their air-conditioning on a hot day or plaster your neighbours wall with your campaign posters without his permission...
Basically all property rights will be in doubt, investors will shun our shores, jobs will not be created and the ticking of our time bomb will become ominously louder as we hurtle towards self-destruction.
The point is obvious if we are really serious as a country about our development ambitions there are somethings that we should not and must not compromise, property rights being right up there.
Of course the vendors are real people with real responsibilities but enforcing property rights benefit them as well. Enforcing property rights improves the general environment for doing business, attracts investment, creates jobs and generates revenues for government to improve social services like education and health which will allow people to climb up the social ladder.
Climbing the social ladder takes time but if society tries to take shortcuts they inevitably turn out to be costly.
"For many of us we would rather have stayed home and played all day. We forget but school was drudgery and we didn’t get the point of it. If it wasn’t for our parents insisting that we go to school we would have forgone long term gain for short term pleasure, with disastrous results...
Our parents showed leadership and that is what we require in dealing with street vendors.
We may like to pay less for goods and enjoy the convenience of buying off the street instead of walking into intimidating shops but that is short term pleasure at the risk of long term development.