Vendors boycott payment of rent

The new town centre flea market once billed as a potential council cash cow, has failed to help turn around the local authority’s fortunes as expected, following refusal by vendors to pay monthly bills.

Council moved the vendors from the streets in January and allocated them flea market stalls in the enclosed area at $30 monthly rentals. But vendors say these are too steep given poor business at the new facility.

“A committee representing interests of informal traders at the flea market, ordered vendors to suspend honouring the monthly payments to council, since the $30 rental was beyond reach of the majority of the vendors. Most of us could hardly sell a single item in a week. Some would normally take home no more than $5 profit per day, if anything at all. The lucky few making a living out of vending had market stalls strategically positioned in the flea market, but also struggled to meet council rentals given that they had other pressing commitments such as school fees, accommodation rentals, food expenses among others,” said Hilda Pedzi.

Another vendor said business in the flea market was not lucrative enough to enable vendors afford their monthly obligation to council. “Business at the flea market booms only month-end when farm workers come shopping after they are paid their monthly wages. Thereafter, vendors would struggle to make sells resulting in most of them failing to raise council rentals. Our representative committee instructed us to shelve council payments until vendors’ proposal for a reduction in the rentals is addressed by council. Given the prevailing harsh economic environment, vendors would afford at least monthly rentals averaging $10,” said another vendor.

The vendors suggested that council should alternatively give them a window period of at least six months without paying rentals, since the local authority did not contribute towards construction of shelters in the flea market and part of the ground clearing.

“Each one of the more than 500 vendors contributed some $91 towards putting up of infrastructure and general servicing of the premises. The three year offer letters together with the vendors’ card cost $30, $43 was for the infrastructure, $10 was for the council waiting list and another $8 was charged for roofing material top up. Vendors even hired the grader which cleared the ground ahead of construction of the flea market. Council did not contribute anything in this regard, save for construction of the dura-wall. In light of our heavy contributions, we expected council to at least give us a window period of rentals freeze”, said a vendors committee member who declined to be identified as he was not the official spokesperson.

He said they would put their concerns in writing and present them to council for consideration. “The rentals boycott would be in place until council compromises on the issue.”

Council expected to collect more than $15 000 in revenue from the flea market every month. This would have helped council meet part of other obligations such as payment of workers’ salaries and improve service delivery.

Town Mayor, Farai Nyandoro, said. “I will check with the relevant council offices responsible for collection of rentals and find out whether vendors were meeting their monthly obligations to council or not.”

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