FASHIONABLY dressed men, most of them illegal foreign currency dealers and second-hand clothing traders, are assembled at the corner of one of the streets at Harare’s epicentre.
Different makes of top-of-the-range cars are negligently parked along the street, giving other motorists a hard time negotiating their way in Harare’s Central Business District.
Add to that, a heavy and offensive urine whiff emanating from the short security walls of a car park located a few metres away from the gathering.
Seemingly not deterred by the stink and possibility of facing the wrath of the law, the men put up their bets, which are usually in United State dollars, on the tarmac, gambling in various denominations that range from US$5 to US$20.
Some daring gamblers even take up the stakes to US$50 or US$100 for a single dice.
These gamblers are now a common scene in most of Harare’s streets, especially in the CBD where forex dealers and second-hand clothes traders ply their trade.
Interestingly, the way these “dealers” gamble is a bit “smarter” than that of street urchins, who usually end up in fistfights.
They do not display their greenbacks while still at the gambling “table”; they just pull monies from their pockets and hand it over to the winner.
There will be no noise and the level of settling misunderstandings is more urbane.
The odds are usually set by the “street exchange rate” of the day.
A spit away from the gamblers would be another batch of men, whiskey hawkers, waiting to prey on those who would have won, as they will be selling expensive bottles from their cars.
The whiskeys are priced in United States dollars.
Other whiskey hawkers, commonly referred to in street lingo as “pashop”, display their bottles on top of their cars and right in the face of patrolling Zimbabwe Republic Police and municipal police details, known for their “battles” with vendors in the city centre.
These whiskey hawkers are now a common feature in most streets in Harare with others now assuming the wholesale role.
With the prices of local beers being unaffordable to many people, the whiskeys, whose entry into the country is shrouded in secrecy owing to the strict regulations at ports of entry, are in high demand.
“This is now common in Harare with almost every street corner where money changers are found being turned into a gambling space or whiskey selling point,” said Munashe Chibaya, who is into the business of selling whiskey in Harare’s CBD.
“I have realised that when there will be very little activity on the street, people turn to drinking and gambling to while away time. To some of us, it will be business as we are now living on selling whiskey. Because of the demand, which has been spiked by the cost of local beers, everyone is now thinking of selling whiskey. That is why the number of people selling it has increased on the streets,” he said.
Chibaya said some people will be trying to supplement their income after failing to make it on the streets where they change money, while others are now taking it as a specialty.
“Others just do it for fun to wind up their day on the streets. It is true that the police will be roaming the streets, but these people would have spent the day playing cat and mice with law enforcement agents, so to them it is worth taking the risk.
“Although the police are aware of these acts, it is difficult to arrest culprits as they do it in a smart way.”