Home » Business » To Go or Not, Vendors in Dilemma

Maud Mayambe gazes pensively into space, her deep set eyes focusing on nothing in particular. Her spindly arms wave away flies that hover around her wares which she is selling at the corner of Jason Moyo and Leopold Takawira.

“Sometimes I go home with only $3, but on very bad days, which are many, nothing. And then there are constant raids from council officials. You either pay a bribe of $1 or pay a fine of $5,” she said, wrapping a faded blue and white scarf around her shoulders to keep away the morning chill.

Popularly known as kutonyora, bribing officers is not new on the streets and the vendors know that to survive they have to make such small concessions.

Maud is one of the over 100 000 vendors operating in Harare and lately their removal from the central business centre has been a hot subject.

The city fathers and the government have threatened to forcibly move the vendors from undesignated points and they gave them until June 26 to vacate the areas.

It had been inferred that the army would be recruited to deal with the vendors who are teeming all over the pavements. But government has since made a U-turn and will no longer use the army to move the vendors.

“Ndiri chirikadzi ini, ndikasetengesa vana vangu vanorarama nei? (I am a widow, if I do not sell, who will look after my kids?),” Maud asks, wringing her hands in frustration.

Her story of desperation and limited options resonates with several other vendors on the streets of Harare.

Thirty-nine-year-old Wilbert Kamusori from Epworth sells belts, shoes and books at the corner of Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere.

He works alongside three other colleagues and together they form a formidable team that looks out for each other and shares the burdensome life of vending.

“I started this business in 2000 when most companies started shutting down. It is my lifeline and my family depends on it so I cannot be anywhere else but here,” he says in an uncompromising voice.

When he started vending he had only one child, but now has four kids.

What about accusations that the vendors are bringing chaos and filth on the streets?

“We try to be organised, look at how I have arranged my shoes, it is in such a way that it creates space for people to go about their business,” Kamusori reasons.

And what is wrong with the designated areas?

“There is no business there because we capitalise on people buying out of impulse as they pass by. That is rare at the market because it means a customer has to walk and with the busy lives that people lead, chances are we will get fewer customers,” he explains.

Tall and lanky Tafadzwa Pinda takes over: “Just like people who go to formal work, we are here by 8am. There is nowhere else to go.”

The youthful 22-year-old from Dzivarasekwa says he is better off on the street than sitting at home and hoping things will get better.

The vendors are also not happy with the fees charged at the designated areas.

“The front stalls in the flea market are $15 a day. That is absurd, considering that at times we do not sell anything,” said Kamusori.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard

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