HARARE — She trudges with a metal tray balancing brown and green bottles, with swollen feet she slides across the bar.
In her sweaty and tired face, leaving on a revealing top and mini skirt she forces herself to smile as she serves the drunken patrons in the local bar.
In a country that has almost 90% unemployment rate, earning as little as a single dollar a day, she has to endure as she strives to make ends meet.
Gone are the days when the bar ladies were secured from the hands of the admiring drunken men as they used to stand behind the counter which was reinforced by steel-made burglar bars that only left a small space which allowed for the transfer of money and empty bottles between the waitress and the patrons.
Nowadays the customer is king, without the anticipation of a tip — a form of appreciation for the services rendered — the waitresses in most of the capitals wrestle for customers so as to make the highest sales of the day or risk going home with an empty pocket.
“Through the proliferation of bars as the major source of income in a country that has been suffering years of economic meltdown, we have to maximise on luring many customers and the waitresses must have very good marketing and sells strategies and expertise. They have to look their best to allow the drunken patrons to continue buying beer,” said an owner of a night club in Chitungwiza who spoke on condition of anonymity
It is true that the love for money leads to all evil and young girls and women in their desperate search for jobs have been exposed to various abuses both sexually, emotionally and economically.
Hence, the life of a waitress, according to observers, is no different to that of the ladies of the night — prostitutes, or even worse as they work close to 12 hours for meager earnings.
“We work on shifts which are either day or night. When we are working on a day shift we start at 8am and end the shift the following day at 5am. We earn the money according to the number of crates of beer that we would have sold and we are paid a single dollar per crate. When we encounter broken empties in the crate we do not get any money for that crate,” explained a waitress who only referred to herself as Muchaneta, at a joint in Norton.
Saving money to raise her two children at home the young lady in her early twenties has to endure the constant abuses that emanate from the drunken and abusive patrons who flock the beer joint.
“We have to endure all the pain and trauma associated with the job. Every job has its tensions, even nurses suffer the same from the sick patients yet they endure not only for the passion, but for the money, because it makes the world go round,” added Muchaneta.
According to the Zimbabwe Congress for Trade Unions’ 2009 report, “a country that has a 2,2% inflation rate and a poverty datum line which is below $500, the minimum wages for employees in the food industry is supposed to be $125 per month.”
But it seems that the tide has turned in recent years as many waitresses are earning as little as $100 per month inclusive of transport allowance.
“Half a loaf is better than nothing. We have to thank God that at least I have something to look forward to. The little I earn can help me solve some monetary problems,” said another waitress in a local bar in the capital who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In the past, the waitresses in bars and in hotels were popularly known for getting tips from patrons, but in recent years the waitresses have been complaining that the trend of being tipped has gradually evaporated.
“In this economic meltdown some people who come to these joints spend more than two hours sipping on a single pint of beer, as such you can clearly see that the person is broke enough not to spare a dollar for a tip,” added the waitress.