Many Zimbabweans visit pawn shops and flea markets to buy second-hand clothing and items. A few years ago, already-owned items were often associated with the extreme poor. Nowadays, however, it's a different story as new clothing is considered just too expensive. From Mutare, Voice of America English To Africa Service reporter Loirdham Moyo says as one passes sakubva stadium, near the high-density suburb of the same name, sheds containing second-hand clothes are lined up along the pavement. Other venders simply dump their goods on the ground, where customers unceremoniously squat to rummage through the clothes.
Zimbabweans in all walks of life paw through the shirts, jackets, caps, hats and shoes. Some say the prices are reasonably lower compared to shop prices where the cheapest short-sleeved shirt or blouse can cost up to 1-billion dollars (or 10 us dollars on the black market).
Samqueliso Moyo, who lives in the morningside neighborhood in Mutare says she finds it cheaper to do her shopping at pawn dealers as she's assured of getting more merchandise and at times better quality material.
Her view is shared by fellow Mutare resident Tendai Maziye, who lives in Darlington. He says the local currency has lost so much value it can't purchase anything of value in stores. Maziye adds consumers have to choose carefully before parting with their hard-earned cash,
“Our dollar has lost value and one cannot buy much from the stores and shops. Therefore it is advisable for one to buy from the flea markets where you get cheaper clothes, as for example a pair of jeans in shops costs about six billion Zimbabwe dollars while the same, if not better pair of jeans is pegged at 2,500 Zimbabwe dollars. You save more while buying more in pawn shops and at times the shops do not have the commodities.”
Mutare residents say that the current economic and political situation is only making life more difficult for the poor, especially as the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens. But Lloyd Hara, of Dangamvura, blames politics for the meltdown, “The problem in Zimbabwe is that there is nothing left in shops to buy. People now view flea markets as the places to get goods. The remaining shops in Zimbabwe such as Meikles, Edgars and Powersales have nothing in them left!”
Meanwhile pawn traders are recording brisk business, as customers continue flocking to their stalls.
Flea market dealer Misheck Marimire confirms he's doing well. He says he's continuously on the road to Mozambique to fetch new orders. On a good day, explains marimire, he takes home about 30-billion Zimbabwe dollars in sales of second hand clothing. This, while shop owners bemoan their static sales.
One clothing shop owner, who requested anonymity, says he's considering leasing the building mid-year because business has slowed so much. The businessman says if leasing fails to attract takers he may consider a career-change.
Second-hand clothing now is so popular with Zimbabweans it's been code named "mazitye"… a derogatory word for "hand-me-downs."