Last sip for Harare's opaque lovers

HARARE - Rufaro Marketing, which used to stand out as one of Harare City Council’s famous brands, is winding up business in the first quarter of next year.

Council, desperate to get rid of the former cash cow, says the business, known for large township beerhalls and its potent opaque brew, is bleeding the local authority.

Council says it will write off tariff debts owed by its liquor arm, which is collapsing after failing to keep pace with fast moving changes in the beer and entertainment industry.

The liquor business unit had been making massive losses, prompting the cash-strapped council to lease the beer halls to TN Holdings, a conglomerate which plans to bring new activity to the lifeless high density suburbs by establishing state-of-the-art supermarkets and convenience banking outlets.

Council minutes approved last week show that the local authority is tired of shouldering Rufaro losses, which have now amounted to more than $5 million.

“That council approves the writing off of the company debt pertaining to rates and water on the basis that it is irrecoverable,” read the council minutes.

City fathers have given the board of directors headed by Philip Mataranyika until March to wind up operations.

During the good old days Rufaro Marketing beerhalls were overwhelmed with patrons who saw the taverns as the few forms of social activity.

As a result of poor management and failure to keep up with competition from new joints which took entertainment to a level identified with the growing young population, Rufaro beer halls soon became deserted and derelict.

Still, some old timers who loyally continued to patronise the run down beerhalls see the development as an end of an era.

Elderly Tichaona Chirimumimba says the closure of the beer halls spells doom for his “entertainment” life.
For the past 30 years, he has been a patron at Pfumojema Bar in Mbare, where he used to meet his childhood friend David Beketi.

The bar is being turned into a banking hall, leaving the two seasoned imbibers, who say their first sip of alcohol was from this bar, “stranded”.

Forget about the long grass and creaking furniture resulting from neglect, these two regular patrons view Pfumojena Bar as the place to be at.

“Where do they want us to go?” asks Chirimumimba, saying he will miss the tranquil of Pfumojena Bar.
“The bars being opened these days are too stuffy and loud and there are too many young people. It is better for authorities to look for means to revamp our beerhalls than to lease them,” said a dejected Chirimumimba.

They say drink was affordable at council bars.

“Council has failed us. How can they sell our bars when it is these beerhalls that should contribute to council revenues? This is a poor decision made by our councillors,” Chirimumimba said, pain written all over the face.

But to the local authority, the beerhalls had become a burden too heavy to carry.

Councillors are happy to be receiving $74 000 in rentals per month for the 14 outlets it is renting.

Business committee chairperson Thomas Muzuva said the move has boosted revenue collection for the city.

“Each business operator has to pay licence fees to the city in addition to the rentals paid to Rufaro Marketing,” he said.

“Some of the beer outlets that were bringing zero revenue are now contributing up to $12 000 a month in rentals to the company. The rentals are paid on time,” he said.

The local authority also has a plan for Rufaro workers, although not all will benefit.

“Council absorbs within its structures current employees of Rufaro Marketing who qualify to be appointed as would be determined by the Human Capital director,” read council minutes. - Xolisani Ncube

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