By Novell Zwange
There is a burgeoning growth of a class of people with
readily available disposable incomes, and uncontrolled open fire barbecue is becoming the order of the day besides the many public health hazards
Gochi gochi (roast meat) as it is popularly referred to in Zimbabwe, or Shisa Nyama in South Africa and Nyama Choma in Kenya, now reflects the social or leisure lifestyles of many Zimbabweans today.
The braai craze has taken over several suburbs in Harare, and Hillside has not been left out in this informal barbecue or braai where friends
come together near a butchery or bottle store, to grill meat on an open fire.
The buy-meat-and-barbecue concept that started in townships and has taken off among City’s middle class. Everyday after hours or on weekends, local liquor centres and butcheries spill out of their
shops, grilling meat on an open fire to the customers’ specifications.
What started off as a way for township butcheries to increase their weekend sales has grown in popularity, becoming a place where people go to drink, braai meat and socialise. Sometimes on weekends the grilled offerings are added to informal bars, dance performances and car washes, catering to those who want to while away the afternoon.
As competition becomes stiff several centres are now allowing customers to bring in their own drinks and gochi gochi sites are quickly becoming large networking sessions where business deals are
sometimes brokered, but health issues continue to linger in the air.
At Hillside Shopping Centre, popularly known as PaChiweshe, where some restaurants and liquor shops such as Hillside Bottle Store which
opened in 2003 and Malibu Restaurant which opened in 2007 business is booming as residents throng the complex to drink and roast meat.
“Busy days are Fridays and Saturdays, because most people here want to drink beer after normal work days.” said Cedric Madzudzo, the general
supervisor for Hillside Bottle Store & Malibu Restaurant that started outdoor braai in May 2011.
“Usually we use about two braai stands, the meat we sell outdoors but the customer can pay inside our restaurant and come and get the meat outside, and we normally sell full chickens.”
“We put the chickens in chickens in a container when we braai outside,”
A barbecue attendant at Malibu Restaurant could be seen handling meat with his bare hands. Asked about health issues with the City of Harare,Madzudzo said
“We have both liqour and catering licence for the
restaurant so the City of Harare has got no problems with us,”
“People who drink here have no health issues with us, but as you know sometimes drunk people have characters, particularly some new clients.”
Davies Luke, a prominent economist who owns a supermarket and restaurant at the Hillside Shopping Centre could not be drawn in comment as he said their businesses were on a rebranding exercise.
“We are rebranding so we prefer not to comment now, but we will gladly invite the media when we do our launch in about three months time.”
Another popular place at the shopping centre is the Sable Archery Club, which runs a bar indoors and sells sadza and roasted chicken outside.
“Monday to Friday I don’t rest , its so busy here. A lot of people come here to braai, and every Saturday and Sunday the place is packed because we have boozers soccer and sometimes we bring dancing girls,”
said manager Lovemore Tsanga who also confirmed they had no problems with the city fathers regarding their outdoor food catering.
“We don’t have regular fist fights here, because our place does not attract hookers, so its only social drinkers who come here. Most people prefer to come to the Archery Club because our services and
public relations are much better than those of our other competitors,” claimed an excited Tsanga.
Thomas Nyamweda a local resident said he was more comfortable drinking at the Club, “Firstly there is no entry fee here, and the beer and food is more affordable, and also there are no other costs in terms of
transport because tirikumaraini.”
“We prefer the Archery Club because the relations with the staff here are much better than at the shopping complex, ” said another resident, Tatenda Bvunzawaba
Although grilling meat on an open fire fall outside the law, suburbs in Harare still report a continued increase in the number of butcheries, restaurants and bars actively carrying out the practice in the city.
Selling food on an open spaces is considered high risk from a food safety perspective by the authorities. Little solid evidence of contamination exists, but where there is no proper control of food handlers, outbreaks of foodborne diseases can occur.
A senior Harare doctor who refused to be named said,
“What I find most appalling about those grilling meat on an open fire is that most of them do not wear clean and appropriate clothes, and most of them do not take heed to have clean clothes and utensils.”
“Our food control authorities in Zimbabwe have their duties were hampered by fragmentation of food laws and lack of coordination between food control departments. For instance, most of those people
doing outdoor catering do not have Public Health (Medical Examination) (Food Handlers) certification as stipulated by the City Health Department Order 1994, ” he said
The Standards Association of Zimbabwe has formulated guidelines for the design of control measures for food handlers. The guidelines are
based on the Codex Guidelines for the Design of Control Measures for Street-Vended Foods in Africa (CAC/GL-22-Rev.1 (1999)).
These guidelines emphasize the need for local authorities to provide structures and hygienic facilities, as well as training for food handlers. The Codex guidelines also outline general requirements for legislation, vendor health status, and food preparation, including cooking, handling, serving, transportation and storage.
Major concern with foods prepared on open spaces is the microbiological safety, mainly because catering is done in places that may have poor sanitation. Various microorganisms of public health concern, include feacal coliforms, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus
aureus, Salmonella spp and Bacillus cereus.
E. coli and S. aureus which can be found in a significant proportion of the food, water, hand and surface swabs on pavements, streets or other open spaces.
Although open space caterers are a major source of nutritious food, they are also a possible source of food poisoning microorganisms