Raw deal for farmers at Mbare Musika

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As they make their daily routines selling fresh produce such as tomatoes, onions and cabbages, they are saddled with a host of challenges.

Tafadzwa Muranganwa

A recent visit to Mbare Musika, Zimbabwe’s biggest fresh produce market, by this reporter revealed the sad picture of how farmers, particularly those from rural areas, seem to be at the receiving end as they are now providing a “lifeline” to Mbare residents who prey on their woes.

Takura Muranga of Chipupuri village in Honde Valley revealed how Mbare residents are making a “killing” by providing them with such essentials like water.

“As you can see, most of us here spend some days while selling our produce and we need to bathe. So these residents who live within the vicinity of Mbare Musika have found business in providing us with bathrooms and water for bathing and you have to part with a dollar for that,” said Takura.

Another farmer from Mutoko who requested anonymity said because of the unavailability of these services from Harare City Council they had no choice, but to spend all their days at their market without taking a bath.

However, most women who spoke to this paper said they were the most affected as they had no choice, but to offer the money to the Mbare residents.

“Kuvarume (for men) it is not a big deal because they can do away with bathing, but for us women who sometimes will be nursing babies you cannot afford to take a ‘sabbatical’ leave on bathing.

“The only problem we have is that of a city council that has failed to provide such amenities so we cannot put squarely the blame on Mbare residents even though it’s a mineral (water) that you cannot think of it being sold,” said Varaidzo Mareya of Rusape.

Lloyd Makununika, who lives in Mbare’s Matapi flats, said they were making brisk business by providing the farmers with these necessities.

“I don’t see this as a big issue, my man. This is business and you know these are necessities you cannot do away with so we are providing a service to desperate farmers,” quipped Makununika.

With this winter this reporter could feel for these farmers as they warmed themselves around a fire  in the mid-morning, meaning that they could have hardly slept owing to the chilly weather.

“We are  now accustomed to these conditions as it seems  no one is turning an eye to our plight,” said a young woman in her early 20s who requested anonymity as she cuddled her snot-nosed baby.

Some farmers said they were also agitating for grading warehouses so that they would not go bad or over-ripe thereby running losses.

“Year in year out our produce goes bad when there is a glut on the market.

“The responsible authorities should hasten to make efforts in building grading warehouses where our produce can be preserved and ripen while we are selling it,” said one farmer who only identified himself as Stuart.

Farmers who sell their produce at Zimbabwe’s oldest fresh produce stall have over the years been short-changed by people who act as middlemen, aptly referred as “makoronyera” who align themselves to Zanu PF, fleecing farmers.

Resistance has often been met with threats forcing most farmers to dance to the whims of these people, according to the farmers. There have been also reports of farmers being forced to read State newspapers, failure to do so warrant eviction from stalls.

Charges for trading stalls have been viewed by many farmers as too high rendering their business barely viable. The farmers expressed increased fear in the run–up to the July 31 harmonised elections won by Zanu PF.

Former Mbare MP Piniel Denga said that he was concerned with the plight of these farmers and said when he was a member of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Water, Lands and Resettlement  he met town clerk Tendai Mahachi to delve into the issues and find long-lasting solutions.

“The town clerk produced plans to decongest Mbare Musika Market where he spoke of a partnership with a Chinese company,” said Denga.

He added that there was also the talk of making sure farmers would not be prejudiced by middlemen and that municipal police should not work in cahoots with the middlemen.

“What surprises me is after all the assurance that normalcy would prevail, nothing has yet been implemented,” added the former Mbare legislator.

Denga said that there was also a suggestion that Carter House, which is meant to offer overnight accommodation, for foreigners be used to provide low cost accommodation for the farmers.

Mbare still remains a political hotbed where developmental issues continue to suffer impediments as Zanu PF militia Chipangano unleashes a reign of terror.