Bogus council officers prey on desperate Masvingo traders in lease scam

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By Tonderai Saharo

Masvingo: Many informal traders have lost amounts running into thousands of dollars to bogus agents purporting to represent council in issuing market stalls to the desperate traders.

The fraud emanates from a surge in the number of informal traders scrambling for lease agreements to operate in designated marketplaces around the city after the authority moved to destroy illegal structures early this month.

Officials at civic centre have announced the local authority will no longer accept informal traders with no lease agreements when the current Covid-19 lockdown measures are lifted against informal traders.

The move is meant to bring sanity to marketplaces and to ensure the local authority benefited from an untapped but lucrative revenue base availed by a giant army of informal traders.

Council has since set aside $2.5 million for building new and standard vending stalls at its marketplaces around the city, and work is already in progress.

In a statement, acting town clerk Edward Mukaratirwa said several informal traders have fallen prey to bogus agents.

“Our attention has been drawn to several unscrupulous bogus agents who are defrauding unsuspecting market applicants promising them to get registered for the market stalls.

“Please note the unscrupulous bogus agents are not affiliated to Masvingo city council,” reads the statement.”

The local authority said registration for market stalls was being done through the office of the director of housing and community services free of charge.

“All applicants are advised that any payment towards the city council is receipted and done by relevant authorities, not by external individuals and in this case, no payment is required for registration.

“Masvingo city council will not assume responsibility for transactions and negotiations done by external individuals,” Mukaratirwa said.