As the economy continues to underperform, unemployment has pushed many youths to come up with their own moneymaking schemes. Car washing is one such initiative that has been embraced to earn some dollars, with the activity now widespread across the CBD and in suburban shopping centres.
At many parking spaces youths can be seen carrying mutton cloth brooms, liquid soap and plastic containers with water mainly sourced from leaking pipes nearby. They swoop down on motorists, first assisting them with finding a parking spot then hustle for a cleaning job.
Clive Saunyemba,who has been washing cars for the past two years, says, “I have to do everything necessary to get as many cars to wash as I can because I have a family to take care of.” He said many young people have been joining the venture which has led to the scramble for customers.
To some motorists the car washers are mere vagrants who pester them with unwanted services, for the car washersit is their only option for income generation. Motorist James Dhliwayo says, “These people are too pushy. Sometimes before you even properly park there is someone already soaping your car.”
Complaints raised by various motorists also led to the car washers battling with the law enforcement officials. In the CBD a cat and mouse relationship has developed between car washers and the municipal police.Saunyemba blames the interest of the police on the increase in numbers of car washers. “It has seen us being arrested on many occasions,” he complained.
The car washers are being arrested under the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Chapter 9:15 subsection 2 article (g) which states that, “any person who encumbers or obstructs the free passage along any street, road, thoroughfare, sidewalk or pavement; oralms in a public place without the consent of the appropriate authority shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level four or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.” This is the same Act that makes touting, prostitution, public drinking, public nuisance, ‘indecent clothing’, loitering and many other minor offences illegal.
Taurai Gomarara who operates along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue in the CBD says “Business was once fruitful. I used to take home at least $20 a day but now I hardly make $10.” He said the decline in revenue started when the City of Harare started to clamp cars they found being washed and arrest car washers for illegally conducting our business. “I think what the council officials should just licence us to operate rather than stop us altogether because things are tough,” said Gomarara.
Car washers usually charge between $2 and $4 per vehicle, depending on its type and size. Their charges also depend on whether the vehicle owner wants it cleaned inside, outside or both.