Mupedzanhamo: the fashion Mecca of Mbare

After a gruelling 300 km journey from the Mozambique border, through Mutare, to get to Harare, Plaxedes Pomerai reaches her destination and prepares her market stall for business.

A bale of second hand clothes ready for sale at the market.
A bale of second hand clothes ready for sale at the market.

“I have to wash and iron the clothes so they are presentable at the market,” she said. “Sometimes I open a bale of clothes and there are only trousers or shirts, but sometimes I hit the jackpot and get a mixture of matching shoes or quality outfits.”

Plaxedes sells her second hand clothes at Mupedzanhamo Market which literally translates as, ‘the place where all financial problems end’. Emerging from the underground tunnel that leads into Harare’s oldest suburb of Mbare, the noise of hagglers and vendors is deafening. This is the country’s largest second hand clothes market.

“Hodha bero, hodha bhero, dora dora, huya utore huya utore,” one seller shouts. “Mucheno, mucheno, mucheno,” hollers another.

People from Harare and beyond come to Mupedzanhamo to shop. They are known as “Pedzigars”, after a popular department store, and some say they would not shop anywhere else.

“I have never known any other shop. I buy all my fashion here and as you can see. I do not look that shabby,” said one shopper.

“My family and neighbours all shop here. Some very influential people come here to buy their clothes,” said 28-year-old Pride Kambarami from Glen-Norah.

MP shopping spree

Plaxedes confirmed that Members of Parliament had been known to visit the market from time to time.

“We actually deliver clothes to them. They are some of our biggest customers and they buy in bulk without negotiating the price,” she said.

The vendor said there was money to be made selling second hand clothes.

“We may sell things for a dollar, but we still make enough profit to buy stands, cars and build a home, which is more than can be said for most civil servants or private sector workers,” she said.

However, working at the market has its disadvantages. The Zanu (PF)-aligned Chipangano group are never far away and many have stakes in the stalls. Most traders at Mupedzanhamo are tenants who pay rent to landlords, many of whom are Zanu (PF) politicians. According to the traders, acquiring a stand in the market is as difficult as getting a passport and is related to the political affiliation of the applicant.

“When these stalls were being parcelled out, we had to bring a letter from someone in our local Zanu (PF) leadership. In some cases we had to bring one of the leaders with us in order for the application to be approved. This doesn’t even take into consideration the money we have to pay the Chipangano group,” said Plaxedes.

“Some very influential people own these stalls here and we pay rent to them. We have to part with up to $300 per month, depending on which section of the market you get the stall. Stalls near the main gate are very expensive because there is more traffic.”

Phase two

City of Harare spokesperson, Leslie Gwindi, said the council was working towards a plan to cut down on the congestion at the market by developing Mupedzanhamo phase two. Gwindi denied the charge that traders must prove their political affiliation in order to be considered for a stand.

“We certainly do not have a policy that requires one to produce proof of political affiliation and do not engage political parties in selecting tenants,” Gwindi told The Zimbabwean. Towards the end of 2011 the Harare city council and the Zimbabwe Republic Police had a plan to demolish any unregistered stands in the market. Nothing has been done to date.

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