Car boot vending craze engulfs Harare

Car boot vending

GROWING up, Chiedza always dreamt of being an accountant at one of the world’s biggest accounting firms. True to her promise, she got into university and attained a degree in her chosen career.

Unfortunately, her joy was cut short as she has realised that her cherished dream cannot be fulfilled on the basis of her education.

Life has since taught Chiedza that education cannot sustain her cherished livelihood.

“It was my dream to attain a Bachelor of Accountancy (Honours) degree. I wanted to relieve my mother of the financial burdens we had growing up. I saw my life-changing. Unfortunately, I never got employed after dropping job applications at different companies,” Chiedza narrated during an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent recently.

Chiedza’s story is not unique as it is shared by many Zimbabwean youths whose life ambitions have been stripped by the prevailing economic meltdown.

For Chiedza, since graduation, she has been surviving on buying and selling. Initially, she started selling second-hand clothes before moving to trending fashion.

Her business venture has flourished from the boot of a car. This is now a trending phenomenon in Harare and other urban centres across Harare.

“I started selling second-hand clothing but now I am selling new and trending shoes, weaves and cosmetics. I  buy some of the clothes from ‘runners’ from South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania,” she said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has in the past couple of weeks capped more than 5 000 graduates from the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) and Great Zimbabwe University, who, just like Chiedza, will not be spared from falling into the same predicament.

“The business is lucrative and I am realising profits from car boot vending. My business is flexible. I can move from point A to B, making deliveries (for a fee) for other clients. I have a close interaction with my clients and it's now easy to make them know about the available new stock,” another graduate who is involved in the same business told the Independent.

Popular spots teeming with car boot boutiques include Harare’s central business district, Harare Drive Road, Westgate Mall and the industrial areas in Graniteside and Southerton.

The goods range from fresh produce such as potatoes, fruits and vegetables, groceries, cheap plastic ware, clothing, shoes, bed linen, beer and cosmetics. Most of the vendors operate without licences while some are adding to their wares including alcohol as they seek to lure more customers to their business exploits.

Zimbabwean law, however, makes it illegal for people to trade in alcohol without liquor licences, forcing imbibers to buy from reputable beer outlets.

One car boot vendor in the Graniteside industrial area told the Independent that formalising her business is expensive because of excessive regulation from the council authority. 

“I have tried to find a shop in town to sell my goods but after enquiries, the rent required is too expensive and prohibitive, given the responsibilities I have. I have to pay school fees for my children and it's difficult to raise the required licence fees to pay the authorities, let alone rent a shop.

“I have been relegated to selling my goods from the car because it is cheaper and it exempts me from exorbitant taxes and licence fees. I also get hard cash from my clients. It's not easy to get hard cash in Zimbabwe,” a vendor said.

In Harare’s CBD, during the evening peak hour, vendors spill onto pavements selling groceries, clothes and shoes among a variety of goods with car boot businesses joining the fray.

“I come to town around 4pm to sell these shoes. Workers would be on their way home and these are our targeted clients. The degree I struggled for has no value and we have to hustle.  My car helps in mobility and sometimes I can target the high-density suburbs before coming into town,” one vendor said in an interview.

However, the vendors are working during the night for fear of arrest by municipal police who sometimes confiscate their wares during raids.

Car boot vending has its disadvantages as vendors are engaged in constant running battles with the council police which sometimes results in the loss of goods through confiscations, spoilage or damage.

Meanwhile, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president, Denford Mutashu, said the council should do more to ensure that car boot vending is eliminated.

“The authorities can do more, especially the enforcement arm of the councils, which has got to do more to ensure the practice is eliminated. Big chain supermarkets are actually operating on the brink due to a lot of these malpractices,” he said.

Mutashu said some of the vendors were selling basic substandard commodities and cosmetics.

“This practice that has become popular in most urban areas is a worrisome trend that has a negative impact including declining growth of the formal retail and wholesale business. Some of the basic commodities and cosmetics products have not been authorised by the Standard Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ). As CZR, we call on authorities to enforce the law and ensure this practice is eliminated in its infants,” Mutashu said.

He said the trend was also affecting Zimbabwe’s economic development, especially on the flow of funds to the fiscus.

“They simply park their vehicle where it is convenient and open for business to the walking consumers. We call on the general public to avoid sub-standard and unsafe products from open spaces. A lot of traffic intersections are hugely populated by these vendors. These can be a health hazard and we call on authorities to work with formal businesses to eliminate this practice,” he added.

Harare City Council (HCC) spokesperson, Innocent Ruwende said council was building new structures for vendors to eradicate the current running battles.

“We want to do away with the cat and mouse chases with the vendors. We are embarking on building new structures, and new marketplaces for our people. The markets will be modernised and electrified. This will go a long way in protecting our people from bad weather, when the rains come they will be sheltered.,'' Ruwende said.

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