Zim housing accommodation (rentals) now paid in foreign currency (19-06-07)

MUTARE - SOME property owners in the eastern border city are now asking monthly rentals in foreign currency, a move which some indigenous businesspeople in Mutare say is surely going to drive them out of business.

The owners of buildings conveniently argue they are doing so to cushion

themselves from the run-away inflation in the country.

In interviews with CAJ some affected businesspeople in the city expressed dismay at the change in the way they pay the rent to building owners.

Isaac Mlambo a self employed 27-year old who runs a cartridge refilling shop in the city say he is facing challenges as the new demand will drive him out of business.

He argues the foreign currency wanted is beyond his reach.

“Life is hard here and we are being made pay rent in foreign currency which we cannot easily. Its either we pay the rent in South African Rands or in US dollars,” said the cartridge merchant.

Property owners now charge between R500 and R700 for office space in the CBC which is equivalent at the parallel market to $5m and $7m a month.

The man says he was not expecting this and this month is the last which he will be operating from Sanhanga centre; one of the buildings in Mutare CBD, where tenants are now required to pay in forex.

Artwell Sithole, a 30-year old Electrician Journeyman Class One says he too is being forced of the premises owing to the new demand.

“As me my landlord is putting immerse pressure and making life difficult for me as he says I have to pay him this month’s rent in Rands. Had I been told in time I would have moved out,” he says.

“To make matter worse the foreign currency they are asking for is not easily accessible. At the parallel market the exchange rate is ridiculous,” Sithole says.

As Sithole mourns the change in rent paying, another affected tenant Mr Tinashe Jeremiah a club operator and hair parlor entrepreneur says the government has to intervene on this as things are getting out of hand.

He laments the new requirement will only but kills local businesses and promotes foreigners, a reversal of the Zimbabwe government’s empowerment and indigenization programme.
But Michael Sterner, a private estate agent in the city argues property owners are between a hard place and a rock.

Sterner argues to keep them afloat owners of buildings have to ensure what they get at the end of every month is in line with what they would have pegged at the beginning of each month.

He says as it stands if properties owners are to continue charging rentals in local currency they end up losers. He says it is wise to charge in forex albeit he quickly adds, doing so is illegal.

Independent media reports in crisis-hit Zimbabwe this week reported the annual inflation rate had hit a record high of 4,530 per cent, but the authorities still refuse to make an official announcement.

According to the reports leaked figures from the official Central Statistical Office (CSO) showed the annual inflation rate jumped to 4,530 per cent in May from 3, 713.9 per cent in April, the privately-owned Standard newspaper said.

The paper said the CSO would not explain why it had not yet released the figures, a week after they were due- CAJ News

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