New farmers’ markets a ‘squalid mess’

BY MUDYAZVIMBISHI AND BRAB HARARE - On January 20 the Harare municipality transferred farmers selling their produce from the City Sports Centre to Mabvuku, Dzivararsekwa, Hatcliffe and Lusaka-Highfield. The City Sports Centre had turned into a health menace, with accumulating refuse soaking in t

he mud spattered ground. There were no sanitary facilities and the consequences would have been too ghastly to contemplate a few days after the outbreak of cholera.

As we drove from the city centre to Mabvuku, it was obvious why Town Clerk Nomutsa Chideya, in the past, insisted vehemently that he needed a 4 x 4 vehicle. The roads are horrible, with portholes being a major cause for concern worse to those who drive low suspension cars; we were not an exceptional case as we snaked the pothole-interspaced-with-tar roads.

We arrived in Mabvuku at a place popularly known as KuMatoko where the ‘new market’ has been opened. Not surprisingly, this market had been operational in the past and subsequently closed after failing to meet basic sanitary standards. Yet some high-ranking people, in their wisdom or lack of it, had decided to reopen the place without any due homework – an open place, covered by massive grass and with a non-functioning toilet and less than 20 metres away from residential sites. With the incessant heavy rains the place will soon turn into another mud pool.

There are no sanitary facilities; the toilet on site is non-functional and accumulating piles of refuse are a sad reality. The nearest functional public ablution facilities are approximately a kilometre away. What is more worrisome is that the market is located adjacent to houses, where stinking refuse piles are already a threat. More scary is the fact that Mabvuku and Tafara have documented evidence of water problems which the city chefs have failed to address.

On site we were lucky to overhear a conversation between a municipal official and a lady who claimed to be from the Cholera Taskforce, who was acknowledging that the place did not meet the basic sanitary standards and she was contemplating on recommending its closure whilst the official from the Harare municipality emphasised that they would be getting a cheque to the tune of $150 million as soon as the city of Harare treasury department opened on Monday.

The closure of the office on Saturday was attributed to the deplorable state of the market. The Z$150 million was meant for the development of the site. With the unprecedented levels of inflation, one wonders if any sound development can be achieved by that amount. Apparently everything needs to be constructed and basic arithmetic tells you this is simply impossible or people will be subjected to yet another propaganda applauding the financial support by the Town House to ameliorate the sufferings of the farmers.

This is a clear revelation that the Harare municipality has ceased planning and relies on spontaneous reactionary approaches. They closed Mbare of course on health grounds, without any alternative focus on the fate of the farmers. Now farmers are like a yoyo, being tossed from one market site to another without even an initial survey of the places being recommended.

This move by the Harare municipality has also bred resentment between vendors and the farmers whom the vendors are accusing of venturing into selling directly to the customers. The market at KuMatoko is not central for the farmers and the only target markets are Tafara, Caledonia Mabvuku, and probably Epworth residents.

In a sad development on the first day of opening, the farmers were attacked by the vendors and lost some of their produce as they tried to flee. The police have however arrested some vendors and issued threats while the Harare municipality police are protecting the farmers on site.

In Hatcliffe the allocated market place is again an open ground with no tarmac surface and shelter. The new market, we were told, displaced the car park and motorists were still worried over the security of their vehicles.

Adjacent to the allocated ‘new market’ heaps and heaps of smelly rubbish are piling up. All on the way through Dzivarasekwa there were no farmers who had attempted to set up at the proposed place.

Finally we arrived in Highfield, a place popularly known as Lusaka.We were welcomed by the malodorous smell that bred from the accumulating piles of litter that are neglected adjacent to the market and a public toilet.

The nearest ablution facilities are blocked and there is only one functional water tap. With the Lusaka market being the only one that taps a huge market after Mbare, not surprisingly the facilities are congested as farmers throng the area for their business.

Lusaka market is not sufficiently big enough to absorb all the farmers’ produce, and so most of it, being perishable, ends up fetching low prices on the market or being left to rot. The market opens at 6 am and closes at 11 am. None could verify whether this was to be a daily occurrence or only a weekend timetable.

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