By Raymond Jaravaza
A new breed of criminals — driven by greed and an easy mark on vulnerable school children — has hit Bulawayo with street vendors conniving with “thieves” to nick textbooks for resale.
Street textbook vendors are an almost permanent feature in the city of Bulawayo, selling reading materials at lower prices compared to established book stores.
But it appears greed is getting the better of the street textbook vendors who have partnered with “petty thieves” to steal books from unsuspecting school children in the city’s central business district (CBD).
The vendors operate mostly along Jason Moyo Street between 8th and 10th Avenues in addition to those sparsely scattered across street corners in the city centre.
“My son and his three friends lost their bags at their school gate (name of school withheld) after knocking off for the day and the bags were later found dumped on a street corner but all the text books were gone.
“It’s clear whoever stole their school bags wanted textbooks only because all the other belongings such as lunch boxes and school jerseys were recovered. Some of the books would have been borrowed from the school library or for our kids to use at home and parents must replace the stolen books.
“You know how these young kids like to play after school leaving their bags unattended,” said Miriam Mlilo of Luveve suburb.
Her son is a Grade 6 pupil at a school in the city centre. Before schools closed for the First Term last week, B-Metro observed school bags heaped together at the City Hall parking lot while the owners — primary school children — were playing and chasing after each other.
The stolen textbooks are then sold for a song to unsuspecting parents who want at-home reading material for their children.
But there is a catch.
Stolen textbooks with visible school stamps are of no value to the vendors.
“Buying stolen textbooks is really tarnishing our image because some of us have been in this business for years, selling books on this street.
“But I cannot control how the others do their business, all I’m saying is that buying stolen property is wrong and it will put us out of business if police start conducting raids here,” said a man who only identified himself as Mlungisi.
He has been selling textbooks along Jason Moyo Street since 2008.
Asked how textbooks with school stamps are treated, he explained: “Sometimes the stamps are scrapped off but if the textbook has too many stamps then it has no value. Most of the books we sell here are second hand that we buy from legitimate sellers but I guess some of us have opted to buy stolen books for very little,” he said.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Chief Inspector Precious Simango said her office was yet to record such cases as they usually go unreported.
With schools closed until next month, the textbook “thieves” have been temporarily driven out of business. B-Metro.