Grain Bags and Proud Hearts          - 4/12/2012      <--Prev : Next-->

My heart goes out to our men and women in Zimbabwe in these long years of toil and struggle. Every street corner, every pavement is testimony to the Zimbabwean guts and determination to survive.

Unemployment is said to be at 98% in Zimbabwe? Who knows? I certainly don't but I do know that the formal sector in Bulawayo is pretty tenuous but informal sector is alive and well and keeping the spirits flying.

There on the corner of Main Street and 8th Avenue is Tendai, he has five "O" Levels but he is unlikely to ever find formal employment. And so he has a "shop".

Tendai's "Shop" is a woven grain bag, spread on the bare, dirty pavement, and the sum total of the wares in his "shop" are seven boiled sweets, five loose cigarettes and some lollipops.....

Cigarettes sell singly at the going rate of one rand, no one buys a whole box, just too pricey...... Buy a cigarette at 50 cents; sell it at one rand, now that's an obscene royal profit !! But..... Tendai will light your cigarette for free.....

How much profit will he make today I wonder? Enough to buy a loaf of bread perhaps, if that?

Tendai takes great pride in his shop; the boiled, wrapped sweets are laid out in regimented rows and dusted frequently on his shirttail.

Then there is quite a large "Shop" outside one of the local pharmacies in Robert Mugabe Way. Robson has his sweets, cigarettes and lollypops interspersed with newspapers and magazines, some old, some second hand. If you cannot afford to buy the entire newspaper, you can read it on site for a few cents !!

Robson sits on an empty crate, his toddler at his feet playing with an empty sweet wrapper, and Robson says he has good days and bad days, enough some days to contribute to his rental, enough some days to buy a little roller meal for his family.

Confident, well educated, his "shop" is growing larger in size, grain bag by grain bag; and he lives in hope that "things will be better next year".

His wife works in domestic employment and Robson is in charge of the child all day, both of them sitting patiently on a pavement, cars roaring past, the child has learned to sit still or risk being run over !!

Donald Moyo sells big shopping grain bags outside the OK Bazaars. His bags are cheaper than those charged by the shop and are strong and durable enough to make the journey home, either on someone's head or maybe that someone is lucky enough to be able to afford a "taxi" or "scania" to take their month end groceries home?

It's the national form of luggage in Africa, the striped multi colored "taxi" bag with handles, strong, woven, durable to a point, but totally not biodegradable in woven polypropylene.

Shadreck is a shoe repairer; he sits outside a shopping centre under a tree. He will provide a new leather sole, or a heel, or even uppers for shoes broken "on the way home". Our people do a considerable amount of walking or 'footing it' as they say, the majority of Zimbabweans still does not possess a motorcar or even a bicycle.

Most people will wait for their shoe to be repaired there and then, as there is probably no way they can afford another pair, not this month at least. Robson has a giant pile of shoes for sale "to defray expenses". Shoes that his clients have been unable to afford to collect, after three months, even if the cost is only one of two dollars.

Daisy Mpofu sits on a street corner in Suburbs, she has a very smart wrought iron stand that her husband made her out of old scrap metal, to display her sweets, cigarettes, maputi and corn curls. She also sells tomatoes and onions that her husband grows nearby, and if they get too ripe for purchase, the family is treated to a delicious supper.

She does not have a vendors' license, a license is after all the insurmountable sum of fifty dollars a year. She keeps a sharp lookout for the police car, or "plain clothes policemen" who will swoop down and demand to see her "tuck-shop" license and then "confiscate" her wares. The fine is five dollars or ten days in jail.....

Every night her husband will pass by to help her move her "shop" back to their humble premises, where Daisy will count her pennies, literally, and decide how much to keep for the purchase of tomorrow's stock, and how much she needs for bread, meal or school fees.

Life is tough, extremely tough, competition is heavy, and nearly each street corner has a vendor, all selling the same things.

Where are their toilet facilities one wonders, but then I suppose where does every Third Worlder go to relieve himself?

But it's the "informal sector" as they are called, all charming, all educated, all waiting patiently for "things to get better".

I wonder just how long they will have to wait?