EDITORIAL COMMENT: Lessons from Glen View complex fire

the-herald-onlineThe destruction of informal traders’ wares mainly household furniture in Glen View 8, Harare in an inferno has become an annual tragedy and this calls for a holistic approach to stop thousands of people from being thrown into abject poverty. The loss incurred is a major setback to the traders and some companies that enjoy the products. Lessons need to be learnt from this tragedy.

The destruction of property belonging to over 5000 traders last week, comes against yet another development in the labour market where thousands of workers lost their jobs after companies sent them home empty handed citing a Supreme Court ruling.

Coming against such a gloomy backdrop for workers, there is a greater need for Government, Harare City Council, traders’ representatives and interested parties to join hands and find solutions to perennial fire tragedy at the Glen View complex.

Each job, regardless of how much it realises, needs to be jealously guarded if the aspirations of the economic blue print Zim-Asset of creating over two million jobs is to be achieved.

There were very few informal traders about 20 years ago when the market started and the number has ballooned tremendously as sanctions induced economic hardships took toll on firms.

However, as the traders’ population increased, the city fathers never bothered to develop support infrastructure such as ablution facilities, appropriate fire hydrants and proper roads.

Harare City’s fire brigade is manned by professionals who are fully aware that the traders at Glen View complex deal with highly inflammable materials such as timber, cotton, paint, rubber, glue and cloth.

The biggest question is why is it they never bothered to install adequate fire fighting equipment that is tamper proof given the volume of human traffic at the complex.

We are not fire experts, but surely one fire hydrant is not adequate for a place that accommodates over 5000 people daily.

It is common knowledge that given the number of people plying their trade and the amount of combustible materials handled, chances are high that the place can catch fire anytime.

Our humble submission is as the traders reconstruct their booths, the Harare City Council should assist in planning and mapping some roads at the complex.

Before the destruction of the place, there were no roads and in case of fire during the day, people can easily be killed as they stampede in narrow exit points from the complex.

We also suggest that the number of people operating at Glen View complex be regulated and more such markets have to be opened in Harare in order to decongest this place.

As the people pick up some pieces and reconstruct the complex, Government empowerment arms such the Small Enterprises Development Cooperation, should audit the systems and ascertain the number of people affected with a view to help them start again.

There are cases of people who had secured bank loans using houses and other properties as collateral and these people will sink if nothing is done to rescue them.

We also have a number of furniture retail shops that had paid huge deposits to the traders and these companies are likely to be a burden to the traders and they will demand that contracts be fulfilled.

With the economy facing challenges, the Glen View complex had become the source of cheap furniture for many low income earners in Harare and surrounding areas.

It is therefore imperative for all the stakeholders to join hands and help the traders rise again after the inferno so that we ameliorate the socio-economic damage it may cause as it came following the Supreme Court ruling that saw people being sacked after three months notice.

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