Recounting horror of losing furniture 7 times

The carpenters wore brave faces lined with traces of defeat and pain of losing their investments.

SMOKING embers reminded carpenters at Harare’s Glen View Area 8 informal traders complex of the previous night’s inferno which reduced their livelihoods to ashes.

The carpenters wore brave faces lined with traces of defeat and pain of losing their investments.

The sombre atmosphere directly contrasted the usual hustle and bustle typical of the complex which is normally teeming with carpenters as they race to meet demand for their products.

Since 2016, mysterious fires have engulfed the place which is Harare's biggest informal furniture manufacturing hub, home to more than 1 500 people directly or indirectly majoring in wood furniture production since 2006.

Recently, the traders woke up to devastating news of yet another fire which had broken out and razed the complex to ashes. Very few items were saved from the fire which became wild in minutes, forcing the few carpenters on the scene to scurry for dear life.

For Doctor Fuzani (56), the recent fire incident was the seventh since he started his business at the famous complex.

He lost all his stock on the fateful night a fortnight ago.

“I saw a message in the group around 4am when I woke up. I quickly rushed to the complex and I must say I wasn't prepared for what I saw,” said a visibly shaken Fuzani.

Fighting back tears, he explained how previous fires had affected his business and expressed fears that this time he would fail to rise again.

“I started this business here in 2015, business was flowing without any challenges. But, 2016 signalled the beginning of setbacks in our trade. We deal with flammable materials and once fire breaks out, if swift action is not taken, it will certainly destroy everything.

“This is the seventh time I have lost my furniture in fires that occur here,” he said.

Having previously relied on his savings to revive his business after past misfortunes, this time around Fuzani feels grounded for good.

“I have run out of options, even relatives now can’t offer me a rescue package. I am in total confusion, I don't know why this keeps happening to me,” he said.

The fire, which has now become an annual occurrence, came as many of the informal economy workers at the complex were beginning to find their footing after the ravaging effects of COVID-19.

Gogo Enesiya Chitima (61) has, however, become used to the fires burning her wares.

“I have lost count how many times I have lost my wares in these fires. We have endured the worst; we always rise. If you come back you will be shocked to see us back on our feet. We are now used to that, especially during the fire season. Nothing will stop us from going forward with our hustle, that is where our bread is buttered,” she said.

Vongai Jakata (34), who runs a joint venture with her husband at the complex, has more than three times lost her merchandise since starting her entrepreneurship journey.

She was very devastated to see their newly-established post in the complex reduced to ashes.

For her, the latest incident was a major blow considering that she had just endured another loss from a fire which broke out elsewhere along High Glen road where the couple had relocated to last month.

“I had just returned to the complex after we lost some stuff to a fire that broke out where we had gone to start a new life,” she said.

“I don't know why misfortune is always knocking on my door? What makes it worse is the fact that it is a joint venture with my husband, my loss is his loss and no one will revive the other.

“I will have to do something quickly because I had an order for 10 sets of lounge suites which were all burnt to ashes.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but sources close to the daily running of the complex have cited mismanagement of funds, overcrowding and alleged intimidation as the reasons for the perennial fire outbreaks the home industry encounters.

Combined Harare Residents Association chairperson Reuben Akili said: “We are concerned with the fires that are continuously occurring at the Glen View Area 8 complex. In our view, I think there are some issues which, I think, remain unresolved. Issues around safety and health within that operational environment have become serious issues. As we are aware, in an environmental area or environmental place we really need to have fire points which will be able to assist users or occupants in the event of a fire. You realise that has never happened, we have recommended this to the local authority, that we need to have those fire points and even assembly points especially when there is a fire.

“Our calls and pleas have been ignored. On the other hand, the material which is used to construct the complex is not fire proof. When we have fire and the congestion at the place you realise that it’s very difficult to douse or stop the fires.”

Related Topics