IN Zimbabwe, and most of Africa, donkey-drawn scotchcarts are extensively used by farmers, particularly in the communal areas as a viable mode of transport to carry goods such as agricultural produce, manure, firewood and water.
Scotchcarts, which were hitherto confined to rural areas, are slowly becoming a common sight in urban areas.
In Bulawayo, there is an emerging trend of young entrepreneurs who have lately resorted to using scotchcarts to eke out a living.
The scotchcarts are used to transport people from one suburb to another, carrying sand, firewood and farm produce among other goods.
These scotchcarts prominently feature on the city’s congested streets, especially in the western suburbs where they have become a popular mode of transport.
However, in their day-to-day routines, scotchcart operators struggle to do business against a host of challenges, which include cat-and-mouse games with municipal rangers and police, exorbitant fines for violating council by-laws.
They are also accused of poaching sand and firewood and also face the occasional rage of residents.
The operators have to compete with vehicular traffic for space and they often wait for hours for customers.
In areas such as Cowdray Park, scotchcart operators have taken over the business of transporting sand and firewood.
Cowdray Park scotchcart operators have turned an area popularly known as “EmaCaravan” into a hunting ground for clients.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited the suburb and spoke to selected scotchcart operators.
Mr Prosper Ndlovu of Cowdray Park is in the business of cutting firewood for resale in his locality and surrounding areas.
“I wake up as early as 4AM to fetch firewood in Nyamandlovu because I will be trying to avoid being spotted by game rangers. Usually, I get orders from my regular customers and most of these are backyard restaurant operators and local residents in sections with no power,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu left his job as a security guard three months ago to venture into the scotchcart business on a full-time basis. He has partnered with Mr Isaiah Ncube who specialises mostly in marketing the business.
“My business partner, Isaiah Ncube helps in terms of looking for customers because he has been a resident of Cowdray Park for many years unlike myself. I came here three months ago and few people know me,” he said.
Both Messrs Ndlovu and Ncube rent houses in Cowdray Park but the donkeys are kept at St Peter’s Village near Old Pumula.
“I have a friend of mine who stays at St Peter’s Village and that is where I pen my donkeys overnight because there are a lot of stock thieves around. The other issue is that whenever municipal police spot these donkeys roaming around, they impound them,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu said on a good day, he makes R400 from selling firewood and carrying sand.
“Now that we are heading towards winter, the firewood business is likely to increase as there will be high demand,” he said.
Another scotchcart operator, Mr Emmanuel Sibanda said most of his business revolves around ferrying people between St Peter’s Village and Pumula including other surrounding suburbs.
“In areas such as St Peter’s, residents are now relying on donkey-drawn scotchcarts as public transport operators are shunning the route because of poor roads. We are therefore capitalising on that,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said he also gets business from communal farmers intending to transport their produce to the market.
He, however, said due to council by-laws prohibiting scotchcarts from entering the city centre, he just delivers in the western suburbs.
BCC is struggling to deal with donkey crews as residents have made numerous reports over the presence of the animals.
In suburbs such as Pumula South, Pelandaba West, Nkulumane, Luveve 5 and Magwegwe, there are several donkey-drawn cart operators.
BCC senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said it is illegal for anyone to keep donkeys in the city.
“The Bulawayo (Protection of lands and Natural Resources) by-laws do not allow the keeping of domestic animals on individual properties unless there is authority in terms of the said by-laws, a town planning permission and Bulawayo (Public Health) by-laws approval. Rangers do attend to reports as they come,” she said.
Rangers have issued tickets to the culprits and some animals have been taken to the pound which is at Luveve Gum plantation.
The fine for offenders is $832 and is subject to review at council’s pleasure.