MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
IT WAS in July when Lusaka City Market was burnt destroying thousands of stalls and goods worth millions of Kwacha.
The lives of the traders were affected. Whether they would be the same again, is what the Sunday Mail went to find out.
Moffat Zulu had his goods worth over K55,000 up in flames when City Market got gutted.
He is still trying to come to terms with what happened in July.
“I will never forget July 4 for as long as I live,” he says. “I had the shock of my life when I received a phone call in the morning around 06:30 hours that all my goods were burnt. I was confused to only find ashes at my stand, I lost goods costing about K55,000 in that inferno.”
Moffat, who has been operating from the market for more than 10 years, was dealing in cosmetics and groceries. But now, he has no permanent source of income but solely depends on his friend who sells shoes for survival.
“I used to be the bread-winner for my family, but not anymore,” he says. “I do not have start-up capital to restart my business. What I now do is hike the price of shoes for my friend so that I can get the extra money, if a shoe is going at K70, I will peg it at K90 so that I get the extra K20.”
Moffat is married and has three kids.
“Only one out of my three children is going to school,” he says. “The other two used to go to a private school before my goods got gutted. Eating is also a challenge, we no longer eat the way we used to when my business was in full swing.”
He says even paying of rentals is increasingly becoming a challenge.
“I pay K600 for rentals, but I’m struggling to raise that amount. At times a day passes without selling anything,” Moffat says. “I single-handedly have to provide for the family because my wife does not work as well.”
Moffat hopes that he will be compensated soon so that he can resume his business. He is optimistic that he will bounce back to his former self once the reconstruction of the market is completed.
Moffat is just one of the many traders affected.
Catherine Mwale had just obtained a loan of K45,000 to boost her stationery business when her newly-ordered goods were reduced to ashes by the fire, barely a week after she had ordered them.
“I still haven’t recovered from the loss of my goods,” she says. “I don’t think I will recover quickly from that tragic moment. The bank has now taken over my house and all the rentals I realise from there go directly to them.”
Catherine, now with the help of her friends, has diverted her business to selling Chitenge materials, which according to her is tough going.
“Business is not the same because I’m just new in this and do not have a lot of customers as compared to my stationery business,” she says. “I had been in the stationery business for six years and I used to make K15,000 from it but now I only make K3,000 every month.”
Catherine says there is need to renovate the market quickly so that those who were affected by the fire can occupy their space and restart their businesses and lives afresh.
“Our prayer is that the genuine people who were affected by the fire occupy those stalls once the reconstruction of the market is completed,” she says.
For Davies Kasongole, it took his relatives to make small contributions for him to bounce back in business when his tailoring shop got gutted in the inferno.
“I lost goods worth over K30,000 in that inferno, all the new materials I had just ordered including customers’ clothes were destroyed,” he says. “I was disturbed and didn’t know what to do, but thank God my relatives came to my aid.”
Davies says life is no longer the same as his business has completely dwindled compared to the time when he was selling from within the market.
“I used to make an income of K4,000 every month and life was good by then because I had a lot of customers,” he says. “Business is tough now because I lost most of the customers due to the displacement.”
Davies, who has been in the market since 1997, says it is very challenging for him to even pay school fees and most of the time, his children are usually chased from school.
“I only hope that we will be compensated on time so that that we can get back to our feet,” he says. “It is still difficult to even support my family, the money I realise from here is only used for food and rentals.”
Another trader, Beauty Chisenga lost K7,000 cash in the inferno. She has spent the last 15 years earning her bread and butter in the market.
“I used to sell 10 bags of soya chunks while I was selling from inside the market but the story is no longer the same,” Beauty says. “The gutting of the market was the worst experience of my life, business is challenging out here such that it is very difficult to sell even half bag of soya chunks.
“Almost everyone is displaced and this has led to the loss of a lot of customers. Back then, customers knew where to find a particular client or goods, but now, we are scattered and our business is only by luck.”