By Tinashe Mapuranga.- Chitownews Reporter.
St-Mary’s -Vending, retailing and backyard industries are providing livelihoods to thousands of families in Chitungwiza as economic hardships in Zimbabwe continue to intensify. Across the town residents have turned their backyards into business premises or claimed open spaces outside their yards turning them into bicycle repair shops, tuckshops, welding workshops, carpenters and the ubiquitous market ladies.
Many people have ventured into retailing; building tuck-shop at their homes and /or even besides busy roads raising competition in the commercial sector and hence benefiting the consumers through lower prices. The common denominator of these informal businesses is that they contravene municipal by-laws that require them to seek council permission first before erecting any shelters or conducting their business.
Unscrupulous council workers are taking advantage of the contested legality of these business people by extorting money from them for operating without Municipal licences and permission. Research done by Chitownews has shown that unpaid council workers are mobilizing themselves into groups and going around locations in Chitungwiza threatening informal business people with arrest and extorting money as bribes for those without operating licenses.
The municipality charges $25 for a monthly operating licence, a fee described as unrealistic by the impoverished businesspeople
The shop owners said the teams have been forcing them to pay even at least $2 or anything that can be consumed. Research has shown that these funds are not entered into receipts books thus revealing an element of corruption.
Chitownews interviewed shop owners in Manyame Park and St Marys townships who are complaining about the increasing frequency of visits from different teams of municipal workers demanding operating licences.
Mai Huni (36), a tuckshop owner said these teams are normally fronted by a Municipal policemen in uniform and they demand $10 bribe if found without a valid operating licence. She said, “These people will even negotiate with you even if you have no hard cash. They ask for groceries or airtime ranging from $2 to $5”.
Some of the affected vendors at Chigovanyika shopping centre alleged that some of the people involved in this scam are ex-council workers that were retrenched in the year 2015. A council worker interviewed by Chitownews who chose to remain anonymous blamed the local authority for retrenching people without giving them termination benefits.
“Some of them are actual council workers that they haven’t been paid for the past 10 months”, He commented. “Everybody is trying to make a living”.