Zimbabwe: Tenants Call for Landlords' Moral Suasion During Lockdown

7 April 2020

As the economic effects of the 21-day lockdown are starting to spell harsh realities for all and sundry, tenants occupying residential and commercial properties are urging property owners to exercise moral suasion on rental payments come end of month, 263Chat Business has established.

Hard-pressed Zimbabweans whose majority survives on small scale and informal trading activities are likely to struggle to pay their rentals as they cannot generate income because of the three-week lockdown.

The small to medium and informal enterprise owners have also expressed concern over stagnant revenue inflows.

"This is day 9 of the 21 days seated at home and I haven't made a single dollar since it started yet I still need food for my family and very soon rentals at my workshop and home is needed," Arnold Simango, who operates a welding business in Waterfalls suburb, said.

"There is no way I can manage to pay on time so definitely landlords should just understand that this is a difficult moment for everyone," he added.

Simango says his landlord started charging rentals in American dollar (USD) two months ago for a fee of US$ 150 for a small shade he operates in.

In down town Harare central business district, small businesses are being charged between US$ 70 -USD$ 300 depending on size of space.

On the flip side, most landlords who spoke to this publication indicated that they solely depend on rentals revenue for survival hence cannot afford to pardon tenants, they say.

Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (SMEAZ) chairman Mr Farai Mutambanengwe in an telephone interview called for moral suasion on the landlords part.

"It's a sophisticated matter as you know rentals are a bilateral agreement which involves private property. We know these two separate entities, the landlord and the tenant understands the current situation in different positions hence we urge moral suasion and compassion to override every other matter," he said.

He underscored the need to maintain healthy relations post-lockdown by proposing mutually beneficial remedies such as rental reductions and sustainable payments plans.

"There is an argument of some sort of reduction in rentals so as to lighten the burden for tenants," he said.

At residential level, the concerns raised remain pretty much akin.

In a show of desperation, there are fake social media messages circulating implying that government has barred landlords from charging rentals during the lockdown, a development, Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba via his Twitter account rebuked.

This comes as most companies are restructuring their staff complement during this lockdown.

This week, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed fast-foods entity, Simbisa Brands announced that it is laying off contract workers, putting employees on leave and freezing acting appointments due to the lockdown and some companies putting employees on unpaid leave.

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