Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
EACH day after 4pm Mr Melusi Moyo (27) a vendor operating in the Bulawayo CBD breathes a sigh of relief because he knows council police would have knocked off.
What is even more exciting for Mr Moyo is that this is the time when business is at its peak as his customers buy from him as they head home.
Mr Moyo spends the greater part of the day running away from municipal police and this has become the norm. When it is time to flee Mr Moyo who sells bananas, has to sprint with his push cart in order to avoid losing his stock.
When asked why he continues with this ‘hide and seek’ business instead of looking for an alternative source of income, Mr Moyo said being a vendor is the only source of livelihood he has known for the past seven years.
The Chronicle news crew caught up with him at Corner 8th Avenue and George Silundika near the Bulawayo City Council offices on Friday.
“We are operating but it’s really difficult. I have to be on the alert at all times because the council police can appear at any time and take my stock. When I park my push cart at a corner like I have done I will be constantly checking all sides of the road to make sure that the council police don’t arrest me. If caught one has to pay a $800 fine.
“It’s very difficult when they take away a lot of stock so in order to avoid losses, I just display a few bananas and stash the rest where they cannot be seen. If the council police take away little stock, I don’t bother to make a follow up. It however becomes tricky when they take the push cart as well because I hire the one I use. When it’s time to run I use all my God given strength and speed to flee with my push cart,” he said.
Mr Moyo said he used to sell a variety of goods at Basch Street Terminus popularly known as Egodini before it was closed. He said after its closure he now moves around the CBD selling bananas. He said it was pointless to seek a stand from the council as it allocates vendors selling points where there are no customers.
Mr Moyo said they were better off selling from Egodini as the area was busy.
“I once tried to get a working space from council and they told me to operate along 15th Avenue. If I operate from there then it will mean that I will be only able to sell few bananas a day because few people pass through that area. I’d rather spend the whole day running around with my push cart and then relax when council officers knock off and make a lot of money than for me to operate from an area that has no customers,” he said.
Another vendor operating in the CBD, Ms Ntombiyesizwe Chimsaru (57) who sells fruits and vegetables said the key to being a vendor in the CBD and record good business was to know how to dodge the municipal police.
She said they could spend the entire day running away from municipal police but were not giving up.
Ms Chimsaru said her goods had been taken on several occasions but she had never bothered to claim them as she makes sure she displays very few goods.
“On some days it’s really tough as we don’t even get an opportunity to rest as the municipal police will be constantly raiding. On some days it will be a bit relaxed so we just go with the flow. For example, we spent the whole of today running and in such cases we don’t even sit down.What we want is just an opportunity to sell our goods so that we can fend for our families,” she said.
Following the closure of Egodini, vendors moved to occupy pavements within the CBD thereby engaging in illegal activities. It has become a common sight to see vendors fleeing from municipal police with their wares. Those who are unlucky have lost their wares to the municipal police.
Despite what has turned into a daily cat and mouse game between municipal police and vendors, the vendors insist on selling from these illegal points.
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) closed down the Basch Street Terminus in Bulawayo popularly known as Egodini in 2018 to pave way for the construction of a multi-million-dollar mall with informal traders and commuter omnibus operators relocating to other sites. The project which was expected to take 15 months is yet to start.
It is against council by-laws to sell from unregistered premises, undesignated areas or pavements. — @DubeMatutu