Sunday, 3 July 2022


Chaos, litter and the accompanying stench welcomes one upon visiting Mupedzanhamo flea market and the surrounding areas in Mbare.

Thousands of traders, operating from Siyaso to Rufaro Stadium, have not only made the area an eyesore but also turned it into a health time bomb.

The vendors make use of every available ‘free’ space to openly relieve themselves.

Chaos, litter and the accompanying stench welcomes one upon visiting Mupedzanhamo flea market and the surrounding areas in Mbare.

The ground they presently occupy, which is slightly adjacent to the flea market, has no supporting infrastructure, especially ablution facilities.

The situation further gets out of hand when rains fall.

Traffic congestion created by vendors that are encroaching into roads and their servitudes have also become common. Motorists struggle to navigate the area.

Some of the cheeky vendors risk being run over as they arrogantly find the roads and their servitudes convenient for business and a ‘rightful’ place to operate from.

After all, the more there is traffic chaos, the better the chances for some of them, particularly those that sell foodstuffs and beverages, to make a killing.

But the traffic chaos in this part of the city is resultantly leading to congestion elsewhere, particularly in the downtown areas situated close to Mbare.

Residents are calling for the reopening of the flea market to curb the chaos surrounding the area.

“If the market is opened, it will swallow a huge chunk of the vendors clearing the space outside.

“When inside, they will have access to toilets and will not be scattered all over the road,” reckons Tariro Masawi, a motorist who frequently uses the route.

Mupedzanhamo was closed at the height of Covid-19 to control the spread of the novel disease.

The market is famous for vendors that sell second hand clothes commonly referred to as mabhero. Another section of the market houses some traditional medicine vendors.

“. . . we are going to open Mupedzanhamo for informal traders’ market shortly,” Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution responsible for Harare Metropolitan Province Engineer Oliver Chidawu was quoted saying in January.

Government envisaged the local authority would capitalise on the closure of the market to give it a major facelift but this has not happened.

The place remains a sorry sight with no proper amenities.

The initial plan was that after renovations, Mupedzanhamo would reopen while other vendors trading around the area would be housed opposite Coca-Cola along Seke Road and others at Chishawasha Grounds as part of the implementation of the smart cities concept in Harare Metropolitan Province.

However, indications are the market is already back in business though taking a different form.

A fair share of the space has been dedicated to car wash and parking businesses. Only a small portion is occupied by traders that specialise in traditional paraphernalia.

Catering services are also being offered in the unpleasant environment.

The city’s acting spokesperson Innocent Ruwende confirmed the resumption of trading at the market, which has a maximum carrying capacity of 1 800 traders.

“Mupedzanhamo was reopened last year but we are faced with operational challenges. We have since approached the police for assistance with a view to take over affairs from people who are illegally benefiting from the place,” said Ruwende.

The market falls under the purview of the City of Harare.

“At the moment there are no structures put in place,” he added.

Space barons are competing to take control of the market.

Mbare-born and bred Arthur Kofi is one of the several car wash operators that have occupied the space in the past year or so.

He charges $5 for his services though the figure can be negotiated downwards.

Kofi, who said he can deal with as much as 10 cars per day, has no plans to abandon the new base soon.

“When they reopened the market, we seized the opportunity and started our business. We roughly have 10 car wash businesses operating here. However, we are not paying anything to council because there are control squabbles that are currently taking place,” said Kofi.

The parking space has become convenient for some motorists intending to conduct business in town due to low fees.

Ordinarily, one is charged US$1 or equivalent per hour in town for parking space but the same figure covers the entire day at Mupedzanhamo.

Some motorists from areas like Glen View, Glen Norah and Budiriro are now opting to make use of the car park and get into town on foot or kombis.

“It is difficult to get transport to and from work. Therefore, I have made a decision that I will use my car to get here (Mupedzanhamo), then proceed into town by foot since I cannot afford to pay parking fees in the CBD,” said a Glen View-based motorist.

A vendor who identified himself as Baba Tanya has been in the second hand clothes trade for close to two decades, operating at the flea market.

“I moved to this ground after Mupedzanhamo was closed. I have to keep my business running otherwise my family will starve,” he said.

His colleague, only identified as Chatora, is a space baron and owns a number of stalls at the newly established but illegal trading site.

“I have different stalls available. The prices range from US$10 to US$70 per day depending on the size, location and your type of business. Renting from me will be an advantage because council will not confiscate your stuff since my operations have been validated,” he tried to convince this writer who was posing as a potential client.

Urban development and town planning officer Shingai Kawadza notes the need for order.

“The administration and management of the market must be handled by the council’s housing and community services department. However, of late we have witnessed the management of the market in the hands of the so-called space barons who are illegally collecting rentals from traders,” said Kawadza.

He added that while it is imperative to ‘fully’ reopen the market, the supporting infrastructure on the ground is not making it possible.

Not much, if anything, has been done by the local authority to improve the place since it was closed.

“They must first make sure there is portable water and functioning sewerage systems. Moreover, ablution facilities must be provided with the expected traders and customers in mind.

“The available facilities are not adequate. The local authority must do a detailed research of the market and come up with a design that is sustainable.”

Also, some feel the huge shade structure at Mupedzanhamo is now obsolete.

They suggest it be replaced with a contemporary design that does not expose traders to harsh weather conditions.

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba agrees that the issue of space barons needs to be dealt with decisively.

“They (space barons) run the market by subletting places to vendors who pay huge amounts of money in hard currency while they pay local currency to council. Ultimately, it is the barons that are benefiting more,” said Shumba.

The flea market, he said, was not designed to be a car park, car wash or to accommodate catering businesses.

“There is need for relevant stakeholders to come together and make a bold decision to stop these space barons that often abuse their political connections. This is the only way we will see the supposed crisis at Mupedzanhamo end. The closure of the market affected a lot of people,” said Shumba.

Similarly, he also blamed the local authority for not investing in the construction of more market places and refurbishing existing ones.

“Attaining a world class city status requires a robust infrastructure development thrust across the suburbs to ensure less movement by the people into one area for market places. These are potential revenue sources which should spur social and economic development for the capital city,” he notes.

“If council commits, say 15 percent of their annual budget towards upgrading market places and putting in place a solid electronic market stalls allocation and ticketing system, the City of Harare will generate more revenue than what they are currently doing.”

Shumba alleges that some council officials are reluctant to bring order to the market because of personal gain.

“Those responsible for markets and law enforcement are pocketing huge amounts of money through bribes from vendors perceived to be operating in illegal places. The more chaos, the more money they make.” Sunday Mail


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