via Desperate clothes vendors flood Byo – The Zimbabwean 16 July 2015 by Pamenous Tuso
The Shona word kotamai (bending down) is now popularly used to refer to the second–hand clothes vending sites that have suddenly mushroomed along Bulawayo’s streets.
Second-hand clothes dealers used to operate in the city only during weekends at a designated site located on the corner of 8th street and Robert Mugabe way near the revenue collection hall.
But during the past two weeks, the city‘s streets have been flooded with vendors selling used clothes. Some of the vending sites have become a nuisance to members of the public as vendors have literally blocked pavements and shops as they compete for scarce customers. Car parking bays have also not been spared by the invasions.
“I would like to urge the city council to restore order before the situation gets out of control. Right now the entrance to my bottle store has been blocked by these vendors. I know times are hard but we also need to respect other people’s businesses as well because we are paying rentals to council,” said a businessman who owns a bottle store along Jayson Moyo Street.
Shipped from Europe
The used clothes, which include suits, dresses, trousers, undergarments and children’s wear, are imported in large bales from Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania where they are shipped from European countries.
The business has even attracted civil servants, who are supplementing their meagre salaries through vending. “I survive through buying and selling second-hand clothes from Zambia. A bale of used clothes in Zambia costs $50. After deducting all my expenses including transport, I gain a profit of $200 per bale” said a vendor who only identified herself as Mai Tadiwa. She sells her wares at a parking bay along 5th Street, which is meant for a local church.
Mai Tadiwa said her clients were mostly lower and middle class workers such as house maids, industrial workers and sometimes civil servants who cannot afford the high prices of clothes charged by established clothing stores.
Another informal trader, Goodnews Moyo, complained about the rising costs of importing bales from neighbouring countries. “Before the government introduced import and customs tariffs, I used to make a lot of profit from selling second- hand clothes and other cheap merchandise. Now it costs me $20 dollars per kg to import it and a bale can weigh anything up to 60 kgs,” he said.
Previously, Moyo paid a quarter of what he has to pay now. At any given time he imports up to five bales. A shirt at the flea market stall costs between $1 andS$3 while in shops the average price of a shirt is $10.
“Since the dollarisation of the economy, I have been buying all my family’s clothes from flea markets. As a low income earner I cannot afford to buy clothing in big shops. In any case the clothes are just the same as those sold in the formal shops,” said Herbert Moyo.
Zimbabwe’s clothing and textiles sector has been pushed to the brink by an influx of cheap products, declining domestic demand and surging production costs.