Jobless Zimbos resort to vending

The closure of more than 700 companies in the few months since the July 31 elections depicts a gloomy future for Zimbabweans, the majority of whom are now resorting to vending and doing menial jobs in order to survive and provide something for their families.

Marabha, at Chikwanha Shopping Centre.
Marabha, at Chikwanha Shopping Centre.

Hundreds of workers are losing their jobs every month – and are turning to selling all sorts of wares ranging from foodstuffs and electrical gadgets to clothes, while the able-bodied carry people’s luggage in town for a small fee.

Sacked workers who spoke to The Zimbabwean blamed the situation on poor governance.

Charles Bvute from Chitungwiza said after losing his job four months ago, he started selling car accessories to Chitungwiza motorists.

“I buy these products in town, depending on what I think is in demand. We are approaching the rainy season and I am currently selling wipers, on which I put a mark- up of at least $2. Life is difficult,” he said.

A man only identified as Marabha, who cooks sadza at Chikwanha shopping centre, said he moves around assisting women who run canteens to prepare sadza.

“There is no employment but I cannot be at home. I have to look for money,” said Marabha, adding that the money that he got from doing the chores was very little.

Another vendor at Makoni business centre, Farai Guzha, 22, from St Mary’s in Chitungwiza said he makes a profit of $3 a day from selling peanuts, mostly to motorists. Although the money is too little, he can afford to send his siblings to school.

Malvin Nyirenda, a shoemaker from Budiriro.
Malvin Nyirenda, a shoemaker from Budiriro.

“It was very difficult to convince the school authorities where my young siblings are learning that they should consider putting them on the Basic Education Assistance Module,” he said, adding that he could not afford to pay the $25 levy demanded by the school.

Guzha said efforts to get employment proved futile considering that the industries were closing down.

“Young people are in a dire situation. We are being robbed of our future. How are we going to account for the lost years?” he quizzed. He said it was sad that those who promised to change the fortunes of young people ahead of the elections were nowhere to be seen.

“We will never get experience in our various areas of expertise,” he said despairingly. The National Social Security Authority revealed that from July 2011 to July 2013, at least 711 companies in Harare closed down, leaving 8,336 people jobless.

According to the report, some of the major companies that have retrenched workers include Zimplats, Unki, Bindura Nickel, Spar supermarkets, Dairibord Zimbabwe, Cairns, Olivine and PG Industries, Daisy Govere from Mbare in Harare, whose husband was retrenched in May 2013 said she moves around doing household chores in her neighborhood.

“My husband was told that he would be recalled for duty after the elections. But they never called him,” she said.

A mother of four children aged between 14 and six, Govere said she gets income by doing household duties for ‘the working class’ in Mbare for charges ranging between $5 to $10.

“Most people cannot afford maids, so I target young mothers who are gainfully employed and I clean their houses and do their laundry,” she said.

A woman selling airtime at the corner of Nelson Mandela and First Street in Harare
A woman selling airtime at the corner of Nelson Mandela and First Street in Harare

“The ones I work for keep referring me to their friends because I am good at my job and I respect people’s property. Honesty pays,” she said.

Govere said she cleans and does laundry for at least six households every week and earns about $120 a month.

“I am now the breadwinner because my husband is a vendor who brings home less that $60 monthly. The family is now depending on the money that I make,” she said.

A shoe- maker in Budiriro, Malvin Nyirenda told The Zimbabwean that he chose the business because it was not capital intensive. “There are a lot of Chinese shoes in the country and business is brisk because the shoes are of poor quality,” he said. “I do not charge a lot of money when I repair the shoes and a lot of people bring their shoes here because of that.

A 35-year-old man from Epworth said selling fruit in town was much better that being a ‘pickpocket’.

“I tried it once and was beaten up by a mob in town after I had stolen a wallet. The wallet had $2 and I realised that I could have died for nothing,” he said. He borrowed $15 to start selling fruit and business was brisk especially in summer.

“Municipal police should let us do our job. They should not harass vendors because we are trying to earn a living. We are not stealing from anyone and government should protect us because whenever they raid us, they take away everything,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate remains very high with less than 900,000 people estimated to be formally employed out of the estimated 13 million population.

The levels of employment in Zimbabwe’s formal sector plummeted from a peak of 1, 4 million between 1981 and 1998 to around 998,000 by 2004.

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