Street Shoppers Keep Warm in Zimbabwe As Cold Bites
The mania of his voice can be heard yards from his makeshift vending stall in Mbare, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest townships.
It is 1pm on a Thursday and George Jambo is bellowing on top of his voice, at pains to attract elusive customers to his stall outside Rufaro Stadium.
A pile of winter clothing, which includes jackets, fleeces, hoodies, and coats completes his merchandise.
He is the loudest here.
Jambo, 34 sells second-hand clothes to eke out a living, a trade he begun three years ago.
Winter is Jambo’s favorite season, this is where he makes most of his money.
Desperate to keep warm in the biting cold, customers have been trooping to his stall to buy cheap warm clothing.
“Ndine manyama momz,” loosely translated, I have quality clothes today in street lingo, he shouts as a female customer stoop to select a fur jacket.
“This is my hustle. I recently opened another spot at Copa Cabbana which means it is lucrative. I can feed my family with money from selling secondhand clothes,” Jambo said.
In Zimbabwe, second-hand jackets, sweaters, and other winter clothing have saved winter at a time when buying new clothes is beyond the reach of many.
While the affluent can afford buying winter clothing abroad or in departmental stores locally, most Zimbabweans have turned to the streets to keep warm.
In Harare’s central business district, one cannot fail to see open car boots, pop up stalls selling winter coats or sweaters and boots for the ladies.
A pile of socks by the pavement, with luring prices of US$1 for four pairs is tempting for passersby.
‘Kotamai Botique’, loose translation for stooping is a buzz word for street buyers.
A look in all directions before selecting an item is common for those who want to be discreet.
When the cost is clear, they immediately pick the item, pay, and make their way home.
Dry cleaning for the monied or a good wash and the jacket is as good as new.
“I have customers who have opened shops to sell the same bhero that I am selling. This is how hot my stuff is,” Jambo chuckles adding that he had bought a car from the proceeds of selling used clothes.
“Many people have since stopped getting new clothes. They come here,” he added.
On a cold morning in Harare, pedestrians adorning expensive looking coats can be seen going about their business.
A visitor could be easily fooled to think some walked into a shop to purchase the coat.
“I buy all my coats from a lady who imports these used clothes. They are as good as new, sometimes they even have tags,” Sharon Mupota, 23 who works as a clerk in an accounting firm said.
Mupota’s plug has a porsche shop at Kensington shopping center.
They are called thrift shops.
“Even those who stay in the upmarket also buy these secondhand clothes. Not many can afford to import new winter clothing, things are expensive,” she said.
For US$20 Mupota can buy a winter coat and a polo neck jersey. Talk about the perfect plug.
Imagine winter without secondhand clothes in Zimbabwe?
Most will freeze, including street families who can be seen clad in nice sweaters while begging.
In Epworth, Paradzai Mhare , 52 sits at his usual spot selling second hand clothes and refrigerators.
Mhare who also works for a local parastatal said winter had brought good fortunes as Epworth residents scrambled for his merchandise.
Unlike others who import second-hand clothes from Mozambique and other countries, Mhare hordes the clothes from the auction.
“It is cheaper, they sell the stuff to me for a song,” Mhare said.
“I essentially use my Zimdollar salary to buy the merchandise for resale,” he said.
A sweater is sold for US$1 at his vending stall. Socks go for US$1 for five.
“The profit margins are low but at least I get US dollars than my day job which gives me Zimdollars,” he added.
With inflation now hovering over 100 percent, Zimbabweans must make a choice between buying food and clothes. ‘
The opportunity cost of food is substituting good clothes with secondhand apparel.
It is cheaper and durable, some argue.
This has not stopped clothing imports being sold in boutiques and flea markets, however due to subdued incomes the streets have become a better option for struggling Zimbabweans.
As the economy teeters on the brink, these clothes have become god-sent.
While the ban on secondhand clothing remains, hordes of merchandise has found itself into the country through porous borders but until Zimbabweans can afford new winter wear, they will continue street shopping.