Council issues ultimatum as backyard businesses sprout

The City Council, in conjunction with the police, has launched a crackdown on illegal businesses operating in the capital. This is likely to result in the closure of scores of unregistered shops and the arrest of many traders using fake licences.

The council issued an ultimatum last year for all businesses in greater Harare to regularise their operations. But not many heeded the warning.

There has been a proliferation of apparel and retail shops in the central business district since dollarisation in February 2009, along with the mushrooming of illegal vendors along all the busy streets.

Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi said the city had been “invaded by foreign nationals” mainly of Asian and Nigerian origin. The Asians, mainly Chinese nationals, descended on Zimbabwe when it adopted a “Look East” policy some few years ago after western nations isolated Harare.

“The bulk of these shops and vendors are operating in contravention of the Shop Licences Act, which states that “no person shall carry out a trade or business without a valid licence” said Mahachi.

The city has also witnessed the mushrooming of backyard restaurants, posing a health threat to residents.

Mahachi said that days were numbered for those who defied the directive.

“We have also observed that there are people trading and operating with fake licences,” he said.

The blitz is expected to reach residential suburbs, where many supermarkets, bottle stores and nightclubs are operating without documentation.

“We have our regulars; we can not entertain everyone because we are afraid of municipal police, who constantly arrest us. Some of them would be in civilian clothing so we are always on the lookout,” said Florence Hodo, who operates a backyard food outlet in the city centre.

Some of the ‘restaurants’ are not conducive for food retailing as they are located in the midst of other businesses. For example, in Fourth Street, there a food café is housed in the same building as a saloon and a barber. This reporter visited the place and found out that there is no running water. Hairdressers and cooks take turns to go and fetch water from neighbouring premises.

“People are satisfied with what we offer. That is why they keep on coming,” said Hodo.

People who frequent these places said they were aware of the health hazards but the prices were affordable.

“Other food outlets are selling a meal for around $3 and here we get it for $1, so people flock here. Nobody has got sick, so we are not worried,” said one customer who only identified himself as Tapiwa.

Harare-based medical doctor, Mlungisi Ndebele, said people should wary about the meat they consume. “People should be wary of food poisoning and other health hazards. Food that seems cheap is not that cheap because people could end up losing money through medical bills,” said Ndebele.

Some people interviewed said the issue of running water was not important as most of them do not wash their hands while eating.

However, their reasoning contradicts that of Minister of Heath and Child welfare, Henry Madzorera who urged the nation to promote the culture of hand washing.

“Washing hands with soap under running water can effectively kill germs and save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. We must promote this habit as much as possible,” said Madzorera recently.

Post published in: News

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