Fait le shopping

6 09 2007

It’s a legal requirement in Zimbabwe to supply the staff with safety clothing appropriate for the job to be done. The labourers that I employ occasionally take this to an extreme and request that they want lime green dustcoats and not the navy blue ones. These requests for fashion statements don’t get a very sympathetic hearing from me and nowadays just getting the required clothing (including shoes) is something of a challenge. I’d heard first hand that the local shoe shop was not stocking any shoes so it was with more than a bit of trepidation that I started phoning around. Amazingly I hit luck on the first attempt and the wholesaler had nearly everything I wanted. No time to waste! As an added bonus they also stocked my favourite brand of local coffee, which I am led to believe, is as good as any in Africa. I know the owner from the days when I used to frequent my gym in the early hours of the day. Harry is a genial and very successful businessman. The conversation tended, as I mentioned in another post, to a good grumble. Sometimes grumbles do actually yield a few interesting observations and are more than just another whine. So, I thought I’d make a few notes of the current most popular topic; the price halving and controls.

  • VAT (as mentioned earlier) has been massively reduced due to the lack of trading.
  • companies that have been forced to trade at or below cost price (or even close down) are no longer posting profits and are not paying any income tax. Most companies fall into this category.
  • few cattle are being slaughtered so meat trading has gone underground and there are few if any hides being tanned for leather products. Hence (to the most part) the absence of shoes on the market.
  • gumboots are no longer being manufactured as it is no longer profitable to import the PVC to make them.

This list is of course partial  but it is a start.

Fuel is for the most part available if you have hard currency. It is illegal to trade in cash foreign currency in Zimbabwe but the more desperate people get, the more inventive they become (and tolerant to the demands of the sellers). On the way out of town I stopped in at a small restaurant/cafe to chat to Gille the owner, whom I knew was desperate to buy fuel. I mentioned that I’d found an outlet that would sell any amount for a dollar (US) a litre, traded externally and apparently quite legally. He replied that he’d managed to source fuel from one of the major fuel companies for 76c litre but with the condition that he buy a minimum of 2000 litres. At lunch chatting to my friend Trevor, he mentioned that a potential buyer for his company admitted to selling fuel for $1.30 a litre. No small surprise that she was driving a very new Benz ML350!  This calls for a business plan. Whilst I am not that interested in becoming a fuel trader, I am interested in not being perpetually ripped off!


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