“Selling pagnes is our only means of survival”
Customs officers from the Burundi Revenue Authority came with police officers and closed all the market stalls. This devastated us because selling "pagnes" is our only means of survival. It was in despair at the closure that we showed our breasts. We didn’t know what else to do to stop them from seizing our merchandise.The year has been an unlucky and difficult one for us. On January 27, a fire broke out at Bujumbura’s central market. The stands and a large portion of our stock went up in flames, destroying our livelihoods of thousands of vendors and making our lives extremely difficult.Some “mamas” then moved to the Chez Siyoni market, a privately-owned market [the central market run by the city] where the cost of hiring a stall is much higher. Every month, I pay 50,000 FBU [around 24 euros] as opposed to 15,000 FBU at the central market.Ever since the custom officers’ raid on September 27, we don’t know what to do. It’s the first time that such a seizure has ever taken place; I’ve never seen this before. What are we doing to do now?In Burundi, "pagnes" are overtaxed. The state raised taxes on them by 70% [according to the Burundi Revenue Authority, the tax came into force on July 1, 2013]. It’s no longer profitable, and thus encourages fraud.We are calling on the Burundi Revenue Authority to sit down with us at the negotiating table to agree on a tax that would suit everyone financially.