COVID-19: Small scale traders call for rentals reprieve

Small-scale businesses renting shops in the Central Business District (CBD) and in residential areas have implored shop owners to charge either half the amount for rentals or make payment plans taking into consideration that not much business was done due to the national lockdown.

In a bid to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day national lockdown which brought most operations to a standstill save for businesses providing essential services.

The lockdown was effected on March 30 and will end on April 19.

Zimbabwe has to date recorded 23 cases and three deaths, with the highest number of cases (ten) being from Bulawayo alone.

For three weeks most businesses have not been operating with citizens urged to observe the lockdown by staying at home to prevent further spread of the virus.

In seperate interviews with CITE, some entreprenuers said despite being out of business their landlords are expecting them to pay full amounts.

Zanele Mpofu who sells electrical goods from a shop in the high density surbubs, said her landlord demanded that she pays her rent in full failure to which she would be evicted.

“We do understand that times are hard for everyone but they also need to understand the fact that we have lost three weeks of trade. At least they should charge us half or let us not pay at all since we lost all month of business,” said Mpofu.

Dumisani Dube, who operates from a shop along Fife Street, said the government and local authority were supposed to factor in the possibility of this challenge when they were coming up with the lockdown initiative.

“When it comes to rentals it has to start from the Councils and local governance so that our landlords do not milk us dry. As it is we are struggling to feed our families because we have been out of business. At least if our landlords could charge us either half the normal rent or they draft payment plans so that we can pay with time as business normalises,” he said.

Prisca, a beautician who works from a salon along 10th Avenue said landlords should factor in the fact that there was no business for the better part of the month so tenants should not be expected to pay full amounts for the month of April.

Leeroy Sibanda, a hairdresser, said half payment in the event that the lockdown is not extended would suffice because they are already paying in forex which is very hard to accumulate.

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