Flea market inferno: Traders allege arson was a cover-up

Mashudu Mambo 

THE fire that razed down Mutize Flea Market was an act of arson — an intentional inferno — to cover up cases of theft at the establishment, traders who lost their property, have charged.

On Wednesday morning multitudes of traders, believed to be more than 300, woke up to news that the flea market had been reduced to ashes.

Millions worth of goods were destroyed by the inferno, rendering traders jobless instantly.

It has, however, emerged that the fire could have been intentionally set by thieves who had broken into various stalls in the flea market during the night.

B-Metro spoke to several traders who raised the alarm that broken locks had been discovered in the charred remnants of the flea market, raising suspicions that the fire was in fact an act of arson.

“I received a call around 12am (Wednesday) that the flea market had caught fire so l rushed to the scene with keys to open a trunk that was in my shop but the padlock was already broken.

“A fire doesn’t break a padlock, it’s impossible so it means that someone had already broken it before the fire started. It wasn’t only my lock that had been broken, so many trunks that belong to various traders here,” said a trader who requested that B-Metro not publish his name.

“I don’t buy the story that the fire was caused by an electrical fault so I stand by my story that the thieves who broke into our shops and stole our valuables set the flea market on fire property,” he said.

Another trader Mthandazo Moyo said this incident has left them traumatised as they have lost all their investments.

“This incident has affected both the shop owners and employees because many people have lost their jobs and most vendors do not bank their money but rather invest in their stock.

“I lost property worth R800 000 and this fire has left us unable to supply our clients who come as far as Marondera, Harare and Mutare,” said Moyo.

Small medium enterprises advisory council secretary for Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South, Dumisani Ncube, said a number of people have lost their property and this is a huge blow as some sorely depended on trading.

“More than 200 people lost their property and as we know many people had stocked their shops for the opening of schools. People have lost a lot of property and there are some who had taken loans from the bank while some were getting some credit from their suppliers in South Africa, this is a huge blow for them,” said Ncube.

Ncube said they had forwarded the matter to the higher authorities and they hope that they will come up with a solution to help.

“We are currently compiling a report that will be sent to the principals. The message has been forwarded to the Minister of State for Bulawayo province Judith Ncube, we are not promising anything but we hope they will come up with solutions to help the victims,” said Ncube.

Acting Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer, Mr Linos Phiri, said the fire destroyed several valuable goods such as clothing, groceries, detergents, gas cylinders, stoves, and other unidentified items.

He said the fire was discovered by a cross-border transporter only identified as Victor who was delivering flea market goods from Messina, South Africa.

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