From Vendor to Businessman, Philanthropist 61%

Aug 15, 2011 (The Herald/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — His life story is a typical rags to riches fairytale. He fought endless battles with municipal police, lost his wares that include laundry soap, needles, threads, combs and hair clippers among many others and would look for money to continue with his small business over and over again.
Each day, he would carry a heavy bag containing his wares and joined many others going to different work places.
He was never ashamed to kneel, spread a cloth and arrange his wares on pavements in Harare’s central business district.
For someone who started as a street vendor rising to become one of the success stories of indigenisation and empowerment, many gather to hear him speak of his yester-life with some not believing him.
It is his success that makes people wonder if he really was a vendor or he was born holding a golden spoon.
Meet Isaac Chamangira who rose from the dust to become a successful farmer, businessman and philanthropist, all rolled in one.
He is now the proud holder of a two-hectare plot in Nyazura, a chain of hardware stores that supply farmers and a canteen in Harare.
“I started off as soap vendor in Zengeza 3 in Chitungwiza in 1986 after losing my job at Geopa Electrical Sales.
“To make matters worse, ndaida kuchata (I wanted to tie the knot), and this dealt a severe blow to me and vending was the only option I had.
“I however, managed to raise the money for the wedding through vending and wedded my wife Anna the following year.
“I decided to take my business to Harare where I operated along Jason Moyo Avenue selling a variety of goods.
“But the struggle was between vendors and council authorities since street vending was, and still is, against council by-laws,” Chamangira said.
He recalls how it was not an easy undertaking working under such conditions trying to scrape together capital to transform his informal business into a formal set-up.
But, he says, he battled through due to vision, determination, focus and hard work.
“It was a difficult time. No one shared the vision that I had and naturally most people even those in the formal business sector were against us. You know how vendors are treated.
“My vision was to own a shop that would cater for new farmers since most people who were in the business complained that the farming sector was no longer viable.
“These were the skeptics who were against the land redistribution programme but I thought otherwise.
“I wanted to set up a business venture that would cater for the needs of the new farmers and I said to myself that I had to grow with them by supplying them with what they needed, and I did exactly that,” Chamangira said.
But how did he achieve this, when street vending is one of those fickle businesses in an industry where there is a plethora of formal traders?
“I saved well, every dollar that came to us counted and we utilised it to buy stock which we then used to start a hardware shop. We worked hard for two years, vending and saving and managed to raise the required capital.
“Some people discouraged us saying we were wasting our time day-dreaming but to say the truth we eventually carved a niche for ourselves and we have penetrated the market,” said Chamangira, who now runs I and A Farmers Pride from the money he saved from vending.
Chamangira says he derived his passion for business from his father, who was a peasant farmer and was also in the business of selling produce from his small plot, and cattle in Nyanga.
This saw him extending his vision from the street to the hardware store, a take-away and canteen and eventually commercial farming after acquiring a two-hectare plot in Nyazura.
“We specialise in growing seedlings because we want to link with our farmers.
“They don’t have to have a lot of hassles in wasting their time growing seedlings at a time when they should be growing another crop,” he said.
Chamangira however, feels the problem of street vendors having to play hide and seek everyday with council or city authorities can become a thing of the past if the vendors strike a compromise with the city fathers.
He also feels that some of the by-laws have to be revisited in order to make concessions for the vendors.
“Vendors on the streets should try to talk with the council authorities for them to push for the amendment of the by-laws.
“Yes, we agree that vending on the streets is illegal, but I think the city fathers should come up with alternative places for people to do their businesses.
“Also, some of these by-laws need to be revisited because most of them applied to the era of the 1960s and 1970s where the majority of the people who were found in the CBD were whites and as a result the by-laws were crafted to cushion that white population that didn’t want to see vendors on the streets.
“There was a population of say about five million people then but the situation is now a different one altogether because the population is now over 13 million people and the majority of them are in informal employment which includes vending.
“So street vendors should appeal to the city authorities to re-look the by-laws,” Chamangira said.
Apart from running the business ventures, Chamangira, who is a devout Christian, believes in ploughing back into the society that he owes his success story to.
He is a philanthropist, having assisted many people and supported a number of socially responsible events.
Some of these include popular actor and former radio presenter Lawrence Bhonzo known by his screen name, “Bhonzo”.
Chamangira came to Bhonzo’s rescue when he was sick and assisted him in footing part of his medical bills.
“I am a Zimbabwean.
“It is our view to assist others,” said the father of three.

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