HomeLocal NewsIllegal shop partitioning rife in Harare CBD

Illegal shop partitioning rife in Harare CBD

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Zimbabwe’s informal sector is probably the fastest growing arm of the economy and demand for infrastructure has seen many building owners partitioning their space to accommodate as many entrepreneurs as possible.

Shop owners in the capital, mainly of foreign origin, are capitalising on the “rush” by indigenous people for space and are sub-letting shops at a high fee.

“The Nigerians and the Chinese have money and connections. They can easily acquire shops and then sub-let them to us,” said Bigboy Hunzva, who sells mobile phone gadgets in one of the partitioned shops.

Harare shops are increasingly becoming “one-stop shops” with different businesses housed under one roof.

It is becoming common to see a hair salon and a restaurant sharing the same space.

Most partitioned shops are crowded, at times having more than 10 people operating from one shop.

“We just need the space to operate from. We can not afford the rentals, so we just share space in these squalid conditions,” said Amon, who sells recharge cards.

In a snap survey, NewsDay established that most shops in Central Business District (CBD) are in violation of the Health Act and other government regulations.

Some of the shops are involved in illegal activities such as selling expired goods to customers.

Shops lack ventilation systems and exit/emergency doors.

In some business structures, selling of pirated DVDs and other fake products takes place. Some of the shops do not comply with fire regulations.

Some of the partitioned shops house restaurants and beauty salons under the same roof.

Illegal shop partitioning has been blamed as the cause for the upsurge in accidental fires gutting shops in the CBD.

Recently, household property worth thousands of US dollars went up in smoke after a raging fire gutted a furniture shop in central Harare.

Refrigerators, stoves, sofas, beds and wardrobes were among items reduced to ash in the inferno. No one was injured.

Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau said they were yet to receive a full report on the incident.

Coloursell Furniture manager Anywin Tsepelo suspected the fire was a result of an electrical fault.
“I actually do not know what caused the fire.
“However, it might be a direct result of an electrical fault,” he said.

The Affirmative Action Group (AAG) has raised concern over the continuous licensing of foreigners in the retail sector saying the move disadvantages local entrepreneurs as property owners hike rentals.

Concerns raised by the empowerment lobby group have come amid reports foreigners were hiking rentals, leaving indigenous businesspeople without premises to operate from.

Addressing AAG provincial leaders in the Harare, the organisation’s chief executive officer Davison Gomo said the situation prevailing in Harare needs an urgent redress. He called on the government to swiftly intervene.

Local businessman Chamu Chiwanza called on the government to move swiftly in the implementation of the indigenisation requirements in the retail sector.

Under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act businesses such as hair salons, retail and other low-capital enterprise have been reserved for indigenous businesspeople.

The Harare City Council, in conjunction with the police, said they have launched a major crackdown on illegal businesses operating in the capital in what is likely to result in the closure of scores of unregistered shops and the arrest of traders using fake licences.

Council issued an ultimatum for all businesses in Greater Harare to regularise their operations, but not many of the unregistered businesses took heed of the warning.

There has been a proliferation of apparel and retail shops in the CBD since dollarisation in February 2009, along with the mushrooming of illegal vendors along all busy streets.

Town clerk Tendai Mahachi said the city had literally been invaded by foreign nationals mainly of Asian and Nigerian origin.

The Asians, mainly Chinese nationals, descended on Zimbabwe when it adopted a “Look East” policy some few years ago after Western nations isolated Harare.

“The bulk of these shops and vendors are, however, operating in contravention of Section 4 Chapter 14:17 of the Shop Licences Act, which states, ‘no person shall carry out a trade or business without a valid licence’,” said Mahachi.

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