LUBURMA marketeers have been given a seven-day ultimatum in which to pay all outstanding rentals billed in dollars or face eviction, the ultimatum was given by
China Henan, the company that built Luburma market on a 65-year lease agreement with government. Traders at the market had sued the company for charging them exorbitant amounts for rentals at unverified rates which were also quoted in dollars saying the company was exploiting the locals. On 30th June this year, the High Court ruled in favour of the marketeers and ordered China Henan to immediately revert to billing their tenants in Kwacha but the company has defied the ruling and has told tenants to settle all the outstanding bills for rentals which were not paid during the period the issue was in court. The marketeers yesterday protested the company’s decision saying they had not refused to pay the outstanding rentals but that it was illogical for the company to bill marketeers in foreign currency. The rentals have accumulated to between K85,000 and K120,00 the the Chinese company is demanding that the amounts be settled in one instalment. Speaking during the protest on Monday, Market chairperson Theresa Kazembe wondered why government had remained mute over the matter and had failed to find a lasting solution despite Zambians being at the mercy of the Chinese firm. Ms. Kazembe appealed to President Edgar Lungu to come to their aid as ministers had failed to look into the plight of the marketeers as the wrangles at the trading facility had continued for a long time making it difficult for the Zambians to operate. “These Chinese have openly told us that there is nothing government can do over the matter and that we were just wasting our time to complain about the slave conditions we are subjected to. “We have a ruling here which compels them to quote us in Kwacha but they are still quoiting us in dollars even now and they have now given us a seven-day ultimatum to pay or be evicted. As we are speaking, then bailiffs have even been given an office on these premises and they have already started harassing some people and we don’t know what will happen by Saturday this week which is the last day for payment of arrears. We have not refused to pay but there is no marketeer here who can afford K120,000 in one instalment,” Ms. Kazembe complained. And publicity secretary Dorothy Mainga said life was better when they were trading in an open market than the current situation as the facility was nolonger serving the purpose it was built for but the selfish interests of the Chinese. Ms. Mainga said the situation at the market needed urgent government intervention or marketeers will be left in the cold as the uncompromising management at China Henan seemed to have more power than those how were in government. “This is our country but we have become slaves in our own country. This was supposed to be a mall but have you come across a mall with trading stands like these? Life was better before these people built this structure. Where do they expect us to go if we are removed from this market? If these Chinese can disregard the court ruling with impunity and our government is watching without doing anything, what is our hope?” Ms. Mainga asked. Efforts to get a comment from China Henan management proved futile as they were nowhere near the premises while their landlines went unanswered.