Road delays mean boost for vendors

Driving between Mutare and Harare may have become frustrating because of roadworks, but the hold-ups are a rare opportunity for hundreds of vendors.

The road reconstruction is part of a national project linking Mutare’s border post to Mozambique and Plumtree to Botswana.

To control traffic flow, the construction company has set-up stop points where motorists take turns to allow each other access. At busy times, this can mean waiting up to 15 minutes at each point.

Enterprising villagers are now selling all kinds of goods and services to waiting drivers – from airtime vouchers to soft drinks.

Michael Phiri of Mutare said he decided to relocate from his previous vending point to the Christmas Pass area because of the new business opportunities. “I used to sell airtime in town but discovered that there was another ready market when I was delayed here while travelling to Harare,” he said. “I quickly relocated here and the money is good.” Phiri said, on a good day, he can sell close to $100 worth of airtime vouchers. Martha Mutora of Odzi said her income from sales of fruit and roasted maize cobs improved significantly after the road construction project began.

“We usually had to wait and scramble for cars and buses travelling to and from Harare,” said Mutora. “The business was not that good since we only managed to sell our wares to passengers after that reached their reached their drop-off points.”

The road rehabilitation exercise is part of a 10-year project, covering Zimbabwe’s major highways, and the delays are not so popular with businesspeople from the cities.

“Imagine that I have to stop for 15 minutes at five stops from Mutare to Harare,” said Cliff Maenda, a commuter bus driver. “That’s not to mention police road blocks. It’s affecting our business. I’m not saying the exercise is bad, but we are just asking the relevant authorities to speed up the process.”

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