HARARE – It is the signature sound of a bustling market: vendors shouting about their wares to passersby while thousands of flies buzz in a huge wooden compartment containing meat of all kinds.
Up to 70 percent of traders in the Chigovanyika Shopping Complex in St Mary’s suburb depend on pitching to shift perishable goods nearing the end of their shelf life.
Sellers shout all day pitching out their prices to attract customers. The vendors’ yells create a deafening cacophony. It is a daily struggle.
To a visitor, it might seem unusual, but for dwellers of this impoverished town, it is a daily routine, coaxing a living from selling anything that ranges from goat heads to clothes.
A boy shouts: “Matumbu ehuku pano (Chicken offals on sale here).”
A burly man, with a dirty shirt that was once white, bellows: “Misoro yembudzi pano nematumbu (Goat heads and intestines sold here).”
Street vendors have become a major part of Chitungwiza’s large “informal sector” — unregistered employment without taxes or benefits — which some experts say makes up around 30 percent of the national economy.
Poverty has sent residents here back to their stoves to find new ways of putting cheap and tasty food on the table.
Chicken intestines and rears are proving to be a cheaper alternative for a lot of families.
Last week, a Daily News on Sunday crew went around “lifting lids on pots” to see how residents were finding their new “cuisine.”
The market is open seven days a week.
“For the past 15 years since my husband died, I have been surviving on vending. I buy goats for between $35 and $40 each from the farms around and slaughter them into thin strips of meat that I sell at $1 each,” Chiedza Takawira said as she shooed away flies that were swarming her meat.
“If I am lucky the meat gets sold out before it goes bad since I have no fridge and make a profit of $10. I spent the money on the family’s daily needs, including paying school fees for my two children as well as paying other bills. It is a very difficult way of surviving because a lot of times we do not make any profits due to the prevailing economic conditions. Not many people still have disposable income,” lamented the meat hawker, adding that she sometimes uses both door-to-door and street sales.
The story of how she is surviving in the burgeoning township reflects the precarious situation of millions of Zimbabweans estimated to survive on vending each year.
Arriving in the dormitory town, with our car swerving along the potholed roads, our team observed that poverty has skyrocketed since 2013.
According to stats poverty levels have increased from roughly 35 percent to roughly 80 percent today.
Further statistics from the United Nations show that at least 72 percent of the population is in extreme poverty, with riots, malnutrition, and disease becoming more common due to an absence of basic health care services.
Only 11 percent of Zimbabwean children between 6-23 months receive a minimum acceptable diet. One-third of Zimbabwe’s children are stunted, or short for their age.
Edwin Tangwara, one of the regular customers at the meat vending stalls, said the cheap chicken and goat intestines made it possible for his family to have meat on their table.
“With cost of meat in the butcheries around $5 and $6, it is not within my reach given that I am not formally employed.
“The income I get as a vendor is hardly enough for me to afford the luxury of buying meat at such an exorbitant price.
“When I can come here and for just a dollar, vana votoseva muto.
“At times when things are really tough, you can buy matemba (kapenta) for 20 cents and a small portion of mealie-meal for 50 cents as well as that small cooking oil container that goes for 30 cents, meaning a full meal for just $1. That is how bad the situation in the country is and I only hope you will relay our plight to the authorities,” he said with a chuckle.
At Zengeza 2 Shopping Centre, Agnes Chakanyuka, 19, — whose mother is a fish vendor — said while she used to have aspirations to become a teacher, she has since given up, knowing that her family will probably never have the money to send her for training.
In the evening, Chakanyuka who was selling fish on behalf of her mother who had gone to check on their small maize field in the Seke peri-urban farming area, said her family struggles even to provide a decent meal to honour a guest.
Life for Chakanyuka and her family is far from comfortable.
They sleep on the concrete floor of their shack to leave space for four children who share a bed.
The family share a toilet with 10 households and risk fire by cooking with an electric stove as they have no gas.
Even a brief burst of rain sees water percolate into the home.
Poverty has become widespread in urban areas of Zimbabwe, with a third of urban households classified as poor.
Urban households require cash to access social services such as health and education and hence greater need for households to have secure and consistent income to meet these costs.
The urban dwellers usually face costly accommodation rentals, out-of-pocket payments for health, education, water and power supplies.
Urban areas are highly associated with high levels of social fragmentation resulting in declining social cohesion and increased social exclusion especially for the poor women and children.