Beyond the havoc and commotion of travellers waiting for transport and the vibrant flea markets that serve the tobacco farmers at Boka Auction Floors, all characterised by touting, pushing and shoving, lies a vibrant livestock market.
Hundreds of goats with ropes tied around their legs and necks mill around. Sometimes they stray onto the busy Harare-Masvingo highway, disrupting traffic mostly coming from or headed towards the Beitbridge border post. It’s chaos at its worst, as much as it is business at its best.
Located at the well-known Mbudzi roundabout, Harare’s goat market not only provides employment for the youth but also ensures the constant availability of the animals. Though not a major source of meat compared to pork, chicken and beef, goats have always held an important role in our society, especially when it comes to conducting traditional rituals such as kurovaguva (a Shona ritual for calling the spirit of the dead back to protect the living) and masungiro (a ritual for the first pregnancy) among other special ceremonies.
Trader Tapiwa Makunya* explains, “We go into the surrounding rural areas to buy these goats for resale.” He says they transport the livestock in the middle of the night. “This way we can avoid the traffic police who are always looking for handouts for safe passage,” he laments.
When they finally get to their trading place sellers are not troubled by any authorities. Makunya said, “As much as Veterinary Services and the police are concerned about stock theft, our market goes uninterrupted because our livestock is small and the demand for goats is not as high as that for other livestock.” He said the officials do not view the booming business in goats as seriously as cattle trading. Law enforcement officers have in the recent years imposed harsh penalties for livestock theft.
Health expert Todd Nyakudyara said, “Failure to enforce laws that govern the movement and sale of livestock can result in catastrophic outbreaks of diseases. Many diseases which affect both livestock and human beings can spread quickly and widely if we do not check and monitor our goat market.”
Though the most popular, Mbudzi is not the only goat market in Harare. Some traders have set up business on Kirkman Road, at the open space between the National Sports Stadium and Tynwald Gardens. Farai Sikwenda who operates from there said, “We attract customers from nearby suburbs such as Belvedere, Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana and Westgate.”
Sikwenda said business is good, “On a good day I pocket as much as $100 while sometimes I go home without selling anything.” Prices of goats range from $30 to $60 depending on the size of the animal. Since the market is informal the prices are negotiable.
*Not his real name
Photos: Luckie Aaroni