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28.10.2021 13:41 News >> Indigenous Carpenters In Zimbabwe Thrive Amid Destitution

Indigenous Carpenters In Zimbabwe Thrive Amid Destitution

Local carpenters making huge strides with their street operations as Zimbabwean companies shut operations.

All his life, carpentry is the only job he has known, the only job that has helped him feed his family over the years.
Now through carpentry, 57-year-old Nevanji Chikwara has even become a proprietor of several properties across Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.
Changing lives
Chikwara has for many years conducted his trade in the high-density suburb of Glenview, drawing customers from all walks of life with his carpentry products including beds, wardrobes, sofas, tables, and chairs.
Many more indigenous carpenters also operate at the same spot with Chikwara, and touting for customers has become the order of the day as they mingle with customers who swarm their work stations daily.
These carpenters like Chikwara have worked in the open for years, some with just temporary shades over their heads, some in the heat of the sun by the roadside.
Chikwara said he has never been formally employed in his life.
Yet now, he has turned into an employer, boasting of having 11 carpenters working under him and also a number of runners who help him deliver the furniture that he makes to his customers around Harare and other towns.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, some 3.7 million Zimbabweans now work in the informal sectors like carpentry, for instance.
Prospering as economy sinks
But Zimbabwe's indigenous carpenters bask in the glory of success as the country of over 15 million people contends with more than 90% unemployment, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
That has long ceased to bother carpenters like Chikwara, who through carpentry said he has long beaten poverty home and away.
"I used to be dead worried the years I was a job seeker here in Harare, moving from one firm to the other getting no joy in return as I had just come from my village in search of a job. But with no qualifications, back then it was not easy, and I settled for a job as an assistant carpenter somewhere in Mbare township here in Harare, where I then learned the ropes in carpentry," Chikwara told Anadolu Agency.
Carpentry answers joblessness
Another young carpenter, 26-year-old Nyson Mbuve, who operates in Harare, said that soon after completing his ordinary level of education nine years ago, he wasted no time, immediately switching to manage himself doing his job as a carpenter.
"I did carpentry as a practical subject in school, and I just felt I could still make it on my own if I start doing the job by myself, and of course, I have now established myself and now have customers from all walks of life -- the rich, the poor and the middle class -- and I make furniture that suits all people and their pockets," Mbuve told Anadolu Agency.
Rich pickings
While Chikwara bragged about pocketing over $1,500 every month through selling the furniture he makes, Mbuve said he feels he is still growing but is satisfied with an estimated US$1,200 he said he rakes in monthly from the works of his hands.
In fact, as many carpenters like Chikwara and Mbuve strike gold carving wood, carpentry in itself is trending across Zimbabwe's towns and cities as many desperate citizens switch to the trade in order to earn a living.
This is happening as Zimbabwean companies are closing.
According to the 2013 National Social Security Authority Harare Regional Employer Closures and Registrations Report, 711 companies closed shop between July 2011 and July 2013 alone.
Smiling amid teetering economy
But working on the streets to produce top-notch furniture products which are then acquired from them even by huge department stores in the country, informal carpenters have no need to worry about the closure of firms here but only to smile all the way to the bank.
"I can't complain surely. Every day, I have some money, real US dollars in my pockets, and I know millions of people all over the country battle to access their worthless Zimbabwean dollars from banks as we speak. But for me, it's all just cash and carry as I do my business, and I strictly trade using US dollars," said Chikwara.
Inflation, which has hovered above 100% in Zimbabwe, has threatened to wipe out the value of the local currency, resulting even in indigenous carpenters like Chikwara and Mbuve shunning the money.
The Informal Woodworkers' Association (IWA), a Harare-based carpenters' trade union organization, puts the number of carpenters in the country's capital at about 36,000.
Such are carpenters all over Harare's high-density areas like Glenview, Machipisa, Budiriro, and Kuwadzana, where the busy woodworkers make and sell furniture to all classes of people -- rich and poor, big and small businesses alike.
Tax evaders
Yet the indigenous carpenters have learned the art of dodging the country's taxmen.
"This is just the tip of an iceberg, but otherwise every informal job like carpentry in Zimbabwe is not remitting tax to the government, but they operate in environments made conducive by the government, and most carpenters are not even registered and it's hard to trace their operations," independent economist Hector Nyarurwe told Anadolu Agency.
But even then, Zimbabwe's indigenous carpenters have helped fight off growing joblessness in the country.
"We have a total of 80,000 people directly and indirectly employed by the carpentry industry here all over the country, and that is something positive," said IWA chairman Dickson Mapuranga. -



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