Paranoid Zimbabweans with money to spare have been going on panicky shopping sprees as rumours of suppressed coronavirus cases do rounds on social media. When one of the rumoured patients, Zororo Makamba was confirmed by the authorities to have succumbed to the disease, some people went into a panicked frenzy that saw most supermarkets in Harare’s CBD run out of refined mealie-meal.

We went to several OK, TM, FoodWorld and Choppies branches as part of our normal price check routine and were shocked to see that most shops didn’t have any refined mealie-meal. While people line up to buy roller meal which is sold at government gazetted prices in these shops refined mealie-meal’s prices are unregulated. This means it’s expensive like really expensive.

In most shops a 10kg of refined maize meal is going for more than $230 ZWL depending on what brand it is. Red Seal’s Pearlenta, the most coveted brand sells for as high as $270 ZWL in some shops. Despite this, panicky shoppers were willing to fill their trolleys to the brim as some have already started to self-quarantine and anticipate the government will introduce a more restrictive lock-down.

Supermarkets running low on detergents

Supermarkets ran out of handwash and hand sanitisers about a week ago and shoppers are desperate. A lot of them were milling around the detergent aisles of various shops as they tried to decide which detergent to use instead. Less popular and cheaper bleaches such as Spotless as well as their popular counterparts such as Domestos whose shelves are normally full were running low as customers raided them.

Willy supermarkets have also marked up prices of these products. In a bizarre incident we met a FoodWorld price spy on these aisles in TM Pick N Pay. He was pretty open about it as he was wearing his FoodWorld uniform and holding a shop price book in his hands as he jotted down his competitor’s prices. According to him detergents and bleach have now become big business overnight.