The return of Harare`s vibrant market

by | Mar 10, 2021 | Entertainment | 0 comments

Mako Jerera
Barely a fortnight after President Emmerson Mnangagwa allowed informal traders to return to operation, traders at Avondale market have not taken long to return to full activity.

They say the past year has been difficult for them as Covid-19 restrictions affected those in the informal sector the most. Flea markets operate on customer loyalty and the lockdowns affected interactions, some could not migrate to the internet.

The flea market, which predominantly sells clothing, crafts, local music, flowers, second hand books and locally made jewellery has been a major attraction to Zimbabweans from all walks of life.
What sets the market apart is the calm atmosphere which characterises the shopping experience, in times of Covid-19 where social distancing is of importance that distinction has become a plus.
Situated along Bath Road, behind Avondale Shopping Centre, some three kilometres from Harare Central Business District, the market accommodates around 200 vendors.

There is colour and variety, a proper urban market in the strict sense. There is no touting, loud shouting or hooliganism found at other markets.
With a guarded car park, the market is friendly for all kinds of customers and when one is walking about trying to make a choice of what to eventually purchase, they will be doing so with a calm mind.

In an interview with this publication, Avondale Flea Market Manager Charles Chinanga said they have started applying recommended Covid-19 guidelines in place.
Government announced an easing of the lockdown last week which saw small to medium enterprises, food markets and the informal sector reopening, subject to fulfilling World Health Organisation and national COVID19 guidelines.

Businesses are required to sanitise their customers, check temperature before customers enter their premises and enforce the proper wearing of facemasks covering the nose and mouth as well as ensure social distancing is maintained between customers and among workers.

“Our Covid-19 measures are in place as usual, that is the temperature checks on all our entrances, sanitizing on both our entrances and the toilets are manned and sanitizing is also taking place there. We are also fumigating twice a week,” Chinanga said.

Most vendors sell goods at the lower end of the quality spectrum, so bargain hunters would be elated at the prospect of reopening.
“We provide showers for our tenants who include cross-border traders who sometimes travel from Zambia straight to the market. They can freshen up and go straight to work.”

The market attracts people from many different races and income levels. Residents of surrounding areas frequent this market as it saves them the time and money of travelling to town.
However, some vendors at the flea market have complained that even after the country has –to some extent- reopened, the customer traffic is still low.

The flea market has a restaurant at the back, which has a basic menu for customers.

Although those who sell wares are smiling, it appears those who run the restaurant may not be feeling the same way.

Restaurants Operators Association of Zimbabwe (ROAZ) president Bongani Zamchiya said it will be difficult for some entities to return to operation.

“Most restaurants are faced with full costs related to rentals, wages and other inputs but we have no income while those that are able to do takeaways report an income of between eight and 20 percent of pre-lockdown levels.

“We are quite literally at crossroads and appeal for urgent attention to avert a disaster for the trade and many of its suppliers,” said Zamchiya.

The Avondale flea market brings a pleasant, convenient shopping experience to residents and citizens as well as providing a decent livelihood for its stallholders.
One hopes that Covid-19 cases remain low, to ensure those who eke their livelihoods from the space to get back on their feet, so it can be the good old times once again.