Colonial laws, attitudes hindering business in Zim

CORRUPTIONRobert Zhuwao Correspondent

We are concerned with the prejudices vendors continue to suffer. They are treated as second class businesses in their own country. They are often subjected to extortionist tendencies from the authorities. The Fourth Street “EasiPark Box Project” is an indictment of how the poor are treated in the business environment.

The brunt of compliance with laws, some of which are antiquated and not in tandem with Zimbabwe’s current dispensation, seems to hit the ordinary black man on the street.

I have been seized with the plight of vendors in the CBD of Harare.

My interactions with them have been heart wrenching as it got me thinking as to why efforts by black people to eke a living to fend for their families seem disjointed and disorganised.

On the mining side, there are the artisanal miners, locally referred to as makorokoza or gwejas who often fight running battles with the authorities ,and in urban centres we have a similar scenario with the vendors who have their wares confiscated by the authorities. Where the goods end up is anyone’s guess.

Today I will delve into the happenings at a vending site along Fourth Street in Harare where as you drive you see brightly coloured shipping containers that have been converted into vending booths. Sometime in 2015, there was an influx of vendors in Harare’s streets. To contain the situation, sites were identified for these vendors to operate from. One such site was the car park along Fourth Street, in between George Silundika and Jason Moyo Avenues. The place became known as Fourth Street “Easi-Park Box Project”.

Initially the place was leased out to various grassroots-based associations that then gave vending points to their members. The members paid $1,25 per day to Harare City Council. Sometime in September 2015 a company called Imhanya fronted by a black indigenous businessman but run by an Indian and white man then proposed a scheme which if implemented correctly would have enabled for a better work environment for the vendors as they would be operating from within the containers which they would share.

Information on the ground indicates that the vendors resisted the project as overnight their operational costs increased by over 500 percent as they would pay $1,25 to council, $5,50 and 50 cents per day to Imhanya. The vendors rightfully argued that the “lease fees” would erode their income and viability of their projects.

They were forced to sign “lease” agreements with this company or face immediate eviction. Information at hand suggests that they were forced by politicians and ministry officials who had been sold a dummy project which they thought would assist the vendors’ businesses.

The container project was incepted as a pilot project. What is happening on the ground clearly indicates that the pilot project is a monumental failure as it has created a space baron in the form of the container service providers. Vendors at the site have been reduced to mere pawns in the battle for control of the site.

The Indian partner in the project has moved in and set up an office in a container at the site and has become the landlord dictating what happens at the site. Vendors’ wares are often confiscated by the Indian in lieu of “rentals” whilst some have had their motor vehicles keys confiscated until the Indian has received his “rentals”.

As I write this article, some of the vendors have been threatened with eviction from the premises by the Indian.

I had occasion to be alerted of an incident that happened last month where the Messenger of Court visited the premises to serve notices of attachment on some of the vendors on February 17 2016.

He served notice of attachment being for February 19 2016. However, he returned minutes later and cleared everything from these vendors.

I had sight of the attachment seizure documents where the Messenger of Court did not itemise the goods taken save to write “goods generally attached as too numerous”.

I, being a businessman, have had things attached before by the Messenger of Court or Deputy Sheriff. If payment is made before date of sale or the applicant and respondent agree to a payment plan then one gets their attached goods back. I then wonder, if the vendors pay the claimed sums, how sure is he/she that they will get all their full stock back and if some of their stock is missing, how then can they claim given that the attached goods were too numerous to itemise?

We are concerned with the prejudices vendors continue to suffer. They are treated as second class businesses in their own country. They are often subjected to extortionist tendencies from the authorities. The Fourth Street “EasiPark Box Project” is an indictment of how the poor are treated in the business environment.

Theirs is a case of a space baron fleecing the poor vendors. Over a short space of time, this Indian has entrenched himself in the space for vendors. The space was leased out to Friends of Harare Association by Harare City Council with the support of the Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises.

The “lease agreements” people were forced into signing were with the individual members of this association yet such business agreements should have been with lease holders, who would then extend it to their members. He appears bent on evicting the vendors and taking over the site, yet the people he is evicting do have lease agreements with council through their associations.

Information coming from the associations over the site indicates that they are afraid of the Indian as he claims to have political connections. This may ring true as the same Indian operates a canteen where there is no water or ablution facility. The vendors reported the matter to council and the Indian was made to shut down his canteen operations only for him to open an hour later after a certain District Officer from council visited him in his office.

The Fourth Street“EasiPark Box Project” idea has dismally failed. When it rains the vendors have to close shop as the containers do not keep the rain out. From midday the traders use plastic material to protect their wares from the sun. There are no ablution facilities for the vendors or their customers to use and the site is unkept. This has brought fear and insecurity into an area where vendors felt they had a reprieve. They feel like this Indian is above the law and they have no rights.

 Robert Zhuwao is a businessman and the national president of the National Business Council of Zimbabwe (NBCZ), a registered NGO lobby group, think-tank, demand- based training, capacity building institute for indigenous business development. He can be contacted on: [email protected]

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  • ian

    This is poor reporting- a one sided story which is more of a point of view of the writer rather than a balanced report on what is taking place on the ground. Did the writer check with all authorities responsible including Ministry for SMEs before putting pen to paper? I doubt that very much! Having established that the model that is in place is weak, one would have expected the writer to come up with suggestions on the way forward! There is nothing of that sort whatsoever-so why criticise when you have no alternative suggestions yourself? Also, Herald House is just a stone’s throw from the site where the injustices are purported to be taking place-why did the paper not send someone to corroborate the story before publication? I suspect that this story is driven by jealousy rather than fact and is part of the PHD (pull him down syndrome) that is typical of some of our people in this country.