Flea market operators at Mutize and Son flea market situated along Lobengula street between 8th Avenue extension and Leopold Takawira in Bulawayo are up in arms with the flea market management for hiking rentals at a time when their services have been suspended due to the national lockdown.
Flea markets remain suspended under Level 2 lockdown regulations.
Some of the operators who spoke to CITE on condition of anonymity questioned the rationale to increase rentals at a time when they were not economically active.
“The owner of the flea market increased rentals at a time when most of us are under lockdown, as it is, we have not even resumed work due to the lockdown.
“When the President eased the lockdown to level two, as informal traders, we were not permitted to resume work, hence increasing rentals at such a time is heartbreaking,” said one operator.
Another operator added that they were threatened to repossess stalls for those who failed to pay their rentals.
“We used to pay ZWL$160 then rentals were increased to R400, now they have been increased to R600, where are we going to get such money when we are under lockdown and have not sold our stock,” she said.
“When we approached them they told us that the President said we must pay in instalments but where are we even going to get that when we are not working. They also told us that failure to pay rentals they will give the stand to other people” revealed the source.
When CITE visited the flea market on Wednesday, the place was deserted with a security guard manning the premises and while some members of the management team were inspecting the premises.
Speaking to CITE, the flea market secretary, Sithabisiwe Moyo said they were justified to increase rentals due to increase in rates by other service providers.
“When we closed due to lockdown our rentals were pegged at R400; we have been forced to review them because most service providers have reviewed upwards their rates. Nyaradzo increased to ZWL$397, City Council we had a debt of ZWL$304 but it has increased to ZWL$1 400. As for the electricity bill, we used to pay ZWL$2 000 but it has now increased to ZWL$12 000. These are some of the reasons that have also forced us to increased rentals for vendors occupying the space,” said Moyo.
Moyo said another reason they have increased their rentals was that the workers’ salaries have also been consumed by inflation.
She, however, dismissed as false, reports that they were going to repossess stalls from those who failed to pay their rentals.