This week we saw something that we never thought we would see. You see, conventional wisdom says that Zimbabweans are broke in general, they can hardly afford basics and they have zero savings. Conventional wisdom might be wrong on that point. This week, upon news of a shutdown in South Africa, Zimbabweans went on a shopping spree and like hungry vultures picked shelves clean.

It all began on Monday when the nation learnt of the death of Zororo Makamba, Zimbabwe’s first Covid-19 fatality. All of a sudden it was now real and not just on TV, that struck fear in the hearts of many. On Tuesday panicky shoppers rushed into town and filled their trolleys with all the basics they would need in their self-induced quarantine. We saw people spending as much as $25 000 ZWL in one go!

It was all made worse by South Africa’s announcement that their nation was going to go into a 21 day lockdown. Zimbabwe is for all intents and purposes South Africa’s northern province. We depend on the vital imports that come from South Africa. A shutdown there means a shutdown here as we won’t be able to import much at worst.

Customers target dry foods

Most supermarkets had empty shelves as of yesterday. Others like Choppies Nelson Mandela were more cunning. Stockists quickly filled the empty space with something else but if you had a list you could see there were a lot of basics missing on those shelves:

  • There were few packets of rice in all the shops and in quite a number of them there was nothing. Yes even fancy Jasmine and Basimati rice which sells for eye watering prices was nowhere to be found
  • Refined mealie-meal was gone even though it’s selling for $270 ZWL per 10kg
  • No dried beans could be found, only a few broken packets were left in all the shops we visited, in Pick N Pay it was dissappearing as soon as it was on the shelves
  • Detergents and bleach is flying of those shelves and shops are making brisk business. TM Pick N Pay was offering sweet deals like 5 750ml for $150 ZWL instead of $250 ZWL
  • Meat fridges were very low. Meat is expensive but nobody seemed to care
  • Tinned foods flew off shelves too. Alert shops quickly marked up the price. Now a tin of tinned beans sells for $35 ZWL
  • Choppies had no sanitary pads! What the heck was that about.
  • Toilet paper is not selling as fast as in US supermarkets. It seems Zimbos are not obsessed with it as rich Westerners are
  • Flour was gone