Is this in fact a shoe shop?

5 02 2014

Some very basic shopping can be very demanding in Zimbabwe. Take shoes. There ARE shoe shops around but nothing like the Shoe World chain that I’ve seen in South Africa. Our own local version of Bata (the original is east European) is about the only place to get ordinary shoes. Work shoes, casual shoes, school shoes and a very motley collection of sandals. This was my second visit to the Borrowdale branch of Bata this year to try and find shoes for my staff. It did not go well.

“I need one size 5, 3 size 6 and 4 size 7 in this style. Preferably in the same color but it’s not that important” I said to the sales lady, indicating the canvas shoes preferred by the women labourers.

A short while later the shop assistant returned – “We don’t have the size 7 in that style, can I get you them in this style?”

“Yes, yes, that will do” I replied abandoning any thoughts of uniformity and moved on to look at smarter shoes for the foremen.

The boxes of shoes appeared on the counter. “Have you got a pair of size 9s and 8s in brown?” I said pointing to the leather shoes I’d chosen.

“I think so” she replied and went to look.

“I think so” didn’t sound so promising to me so I thought I’d better check on the shoes for the women workers. There were 2 size 5s and only one 7. I mentioned this to the sales lady. She looked a bit puzzled and went off to find them returning a short while later.

“Um no, those are the only size 7s we have and we don’t have any brown shoes in that style” was her reply on returning.

This was starting to sound distinctly like the Monty Python cheese shop skit though I had actually got some shoes but I could see it was going to take at least one more visit to get what I wanted. My sense of humour failed, I muttered something about Zimbabwean businesses learning from the South Africans who seem to  be moving into the retail sector in ever increasing numbers and walked out.

We do tend to complain in this country about the South African business presence and how the supermarkets, which are almost entirely South African based, don’t support local suppliers but import most produce from South Africa. We tend to forget, conveniently, that they have upped the retail standard considerably which was distinctly, rustic. So it is nice to find a local product that is distinctly first class.

The flyer caught my eye as I was walking out of the bookshop so I grabbed one and only took a closer look in the car. It was advertising a locally written book on astronomy for this part of the world. What’s more I could view one at a residence on my route back to work. Pulling in at the advertised address I caught the domestic servant on his way out but he was happy to get me a copy to look at and divulge all sorts of information about one of the authors who is his employer. The book, Introduction to Astronomy for South Central Africa, is a quality publication possibly aimed as much at teachers as students. Full of great photos, illustrations and tips to star-gazing it is quite substantial and even has a luminous star map for those of us who don’t have one on our smart phones (I do).  I felt I had to support this venture so for the princely sum of $25 got myself a copy. Turning to the introductory pages I noticed it was published in Singapore. Well it was written by Zimbabwean authors!