Runners, or more commonly known as Malaichas or Omalayitsha have been part of the Zim ecosystem for the longest time. If the terms are new to you, these are the guys who illegally transport goods and even money for a fee be it domestically or across borders. I say illegally because for you to be a courier of any kind you need to be licenced by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ).
Early last month we saw what could happen to Runners if they were caught operating without a license. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), arrested an individual who had been performing courier services without the necessary documentation. This goes against Section 32 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act [Chapter 12:05].
“Subject to this section, no person shall operate a postal service except in accordance with a postal licence. Except as otherwise prescribed, a postal licence shall not authorise any person, other than the Corporation“
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The individual in this instance was fined ZWL$25 000 but had his wares and vehicle released to him by the Authorities.
The tide is turning
In what is a belated announcement, POTRAZ Director-General Dr Gift Manchengete announced that the authority is working on a way to offer these illegal operators licences.
“I am happy to announce that the authority is making moves to deliver e-commerce products that are safer and more convenient through the introduction of regional, intercity and intra-city courier licences. Illegal courier service providers known as omalayitsha would be formalised,”Dr Machengete via NewsDay
In saying all of this, I can understand if there are some among you who might be befuddled at why this is necessary. A good number of people (myself included) are more likely to use the traditional services like DHL or FedEx because they offer some assurance of safety and deliver.
The price albeit steep is in my opinion a necessary evil. However, not everyone sees it this way, can justify offsetting their budget or can afford these services. This is where Malaichas come in, their services are within reach however you are not guaranteed that your goods or money will get to the intended destination.
There have been horror stories of people who have lost groceries and possessions to Runners who simply disappeared. This lack of assurance is as much a necessary evil as someone willing to pay the freight charges for a company like DHL.
It looks like POTRAZ has finally seen the scale of the problem and is now looking to formalise the illegal runners. Dr Machengete said that bringing these individuals under some sort of regulatory framework could help in enhancing services and consumer protection.
The side hustle becomes mainstream
Earlier on I may have painted a bleak picture of Runners/omalayitsha but there are a number who are reliable. They are well to do people who just want to make a little extra on their trip down South.
These individuals I think could benefit the most with the formalisation of the omalayitsha/malaicha business. If for nothing else it could help see a spring of new courier services during a time where logistics is the one stumbling blocks that are holding back e-commerce in Zimbabwe.
Its also worth mentioning that the Runner licence is still in its infancy and there are a number of things that will need to be ironed out before we see anything resembling a complete document from POTRAZ.
You should also check out
Earlier I mentioned that logistics is one of the things holding back e-commerce in Zimbabwe. Well, another thing that is an impediment is the payments infrastructure in the country. It is far easier to pay for goods and services using USD than it is with local currency.
This is a matter we thought should be addressed by Zimswitch and you can hear our arguments and thoughts in the link below: