The Sunday Mail
A chocolate-skinned, beautiful and immaculately dressed young lass with well-defined body contours sat elegantly in a swivel chair in Obert’s office, admiring herself in the mirror.
She boasted milky white teeth, a well-toned voice and did not have as much as a speck of hair out of place.
The aromatic perfume she wore drove men who were at the carpentry shop crazy.
“Ndivo vanonzi vakadzi manje ava. Good looks. Mheni! Mwana akatambura nerunako mhani uyu,” you could hear men commenting as they temporarily left whatever they were doing to catch a glimpse of the rare beauty.
Tinsmiths, carpenters, transporters, middlemen and other curious souls rushed to Obert’s tiny office.
They all wanted to catch a glimpse and at least exchange greetings with the angel that had graced them so early on a Sunday morning.
“You have taken after me young man. I was a razor-sharp ladies’ man in my heyday. Women literally fought to sit next to me. Izera zvaro asi ndichiripo,” one grey-haired man could be heard shamelessly saying while giving Obert a pat on the back.
The lass was getting uneasy with the frequency of visitors.
She asked that they leave, though the request could not be quickly granted.
“Rudairo, wait a bit. I am still to collect my cash; we shall be leaving shortly,” Obert assured her.
True to his word, someone brought a deposit for a set of sofas and off they went to God knows where.
Unbeknown to the lady and many others before her, traders at the informal trading complex she had visited were actually competing to establish who among them could charm more beautiful women than others.
This, however, they did at the expense of their customers, business and time.
Such are the challenges Government has to budget for as it tries to bolster the informal sector.
It is akin to forcing a donkey to the river to drink.
Long touted as turbines for economic growth, the informal sector has failed to contribute meaningfully to economic development owing to misplaced priorities.
When given loans to procure raw materials and machinery, the money is committed to beer, women, cars, food and many other non-essential items they can lay their hands on.
“If you get too serious with life, you will never achieve anything. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. You need to reserve a bit for yourself and the boys, kwete kuzoti wafa womuka chipoko,” I heard the guys saying while blowing money they had collected from a woman who needed a pushing tray.
A sizeable number of people in the informal sector often lose customers owing to dishonesty.
They go about collecting deposit fees from people and splash the money on other things, which always results in shoddy and sub-standard products.
This disease affects most tradesmen.
A friend of mine took his vehicle to a mechanic for repairs and later learnt that it was subsequently driven to the mechanic’s rural home for a wedding.
“Kambudzi kanodya pakakasungirirwa (I goat grazes where it is tethered. Those are my benefits),” the guys often hit back.
As if that is not enough, I heard some mechanics can change your tyres, battery and other engine components so that they can buy beer or attend to their pressing domestic needs.
Those who repair fridges, stoves, television sets and radios also do the same.
Builders and electricians are also not to be outdone.
They can sell your bricks, cement and other accessories if you are not careful.
As I commit pen to paper gentle reader, there are some tradesmen being threatened with arrest for failing to fulfil their end of the bargain after blowing customers’ deposit fees on booze and women of easy virtue.
“Mukwasha mava kundinyanyira manje. I think you have taken me for a granted for too long and I no longer have an option than go and report the matter to the police,” you hear people shouting at complexes where informal traders operate from after being duped.
Other not-so-lucky tradesmen have lost teeth or suffered injuries after the people they would have duped set hired goons on them.
Tradesmen who dupe clients are known to have the habit of tip-toeing back home late at night and sneaking away early in the morning to avoid being cornered by aggrieved customers.
At times, after running away for too long, they would gather courage and threaten to assault the unhappy customer.
“That is why this country will never succeed. You are accusing me of poor workmanship but you buy your goods from non-reputable shops. I know that you owe me a lot of money, but I am willing to forgive you, and please kindly give me space to mind my life,” a certain builder told me straight in my face despite not having fulfilled his side of the bargain.
Hiring some tradesmen to do work for you is like committing a crime.
If they are not grumbling about food, they will be complaining about transport.
If you pay in advance, you start hearing about a sick wife, a sick child, a dead relative and money that has lost value.
At times, if you become too friendly, you will be left emotionally bruised.
You also need to be careful because some rowdy tradesmen beat up nosy clients. Unotsotsonywa.