Night vending increases

Vendors in Harare have taken to selling their wares well into the night to attract as many customers as possible and evade municipal police.

An enterprising jewellery vendor with an improvised lighting system conducts business under cover of darkness.
An enterprising jewellery vendor with an improvised lighting system conducts business under cover of darkness.

They can be seen particularly along Robert Mugabe Road and Speke Avenue near the Copacabana commuter omnibus terminus as late as 9 pm, when they usually start dispersing.

Competition for customers is tough as more and more people join the trade. Shuvai Mupasiri from Epworth said she had been vending since 2009 and had seen the number of vendors grow steadily over the years. “More and more people have joined this business since I started. I want everyone to be able to make a living, but obviously the more people who join the less business for others. But there is nothing we can do about it,” she said.

Zimbabwe’s informal sector has seen massive growth due to critical levels of unemployment. It is estimated that as much as $3 billion could be circulating in the system while the national economy is hamstrung by severe liquidity shortages.

A woman selling vegetables and tomatoes at Copacabana said she had no choice but to stay out on the streets as late as possible. “It’s not that business is better during that time – but if you go back home all these items will go bad. That means a loss for me – so I stay as long as I can so that I can sell whatever I can. In addition, the best time for business is the early evening peak hour when people are going home from work. But the problem is that at this time the police are also very active,” she said.

Her companion said the police had intensified their activities over the past year, making business virtually impossible.

“About two years ago the police used to carry out periodic raids. But this was better for us because it gave us time to sell in between the raids. However, they now camp where we want to sell – so we have to wait until they go home before we can start selling,” she said. There is always a wide range of products on sale from the vendors – including radios, batteries, potatoes, vegetables, biscuits, children’s clothes, peanut butter, cell phone accessories, groundnuts, soap, toothpaste, fake jewellery and bibles.

“We try to diversify as much as possible so that you can sell products that the others don’t have,” said a vendor with a stock of children’s winter wear.

Another vendor said that business at night was not that good. “I only do this to market my products in the hope that people will return later to buy,” he said.

According to a Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency survey conducted in 2012, nearly four million Zimbabweans depend on the informal sector.

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