the business of flour smugglers against price increases

Harare (AFP) – The arrival of the truck was greeted with comfort in this deprived area of ​​Harare. Children are running to get rid of flour, oil, detergent: all come from South Africa, through delivery men taking advantage of a profitable informal business that is still fueled by the recent rise in prices.

In Zimbabwe, necessities are scarce and everything is expensive: food, fuel, electricity. The economy has fallen into a deep crisis for more than twenty years, international donors have withdrawn due to an unsustainable debt. Inflation is rampant and with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, commodity prices have risen even more.

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Fuel went up twice in a week. Grain prices have risen, with Russia being Zimbabwe’s main supplier of wheat. The result, inflation at 66% in February.

“We need to prepare for a wave of price increases,” Confederation of Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu told AFP, predicting that Zimbabweans will still be shopping in the big south neighbor. African to escape here.

In the stalls, a two-liter bottle of oil costs 4.50 dollars, a dollar less if it is delivered from South Africa.

The “malayitsha”, carriers in the Ndebele language, usually cross the border at night between the two countries in southern Africa. Beitbridge is one of the busiest border crossings on the continent, and also one of the funniest, smuggling of contraband goods is common there.

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– Rations –

But these informal carriers, often in close contact with border guards, do not traffic alcohol or cigarettes. They have switched from “mealie meal”, the corn meal to staple food, and are bringing groceries to the doors of customers in Zimbabwe.

The system works through word of mouth and mobile messaging. The goods travel up to 600 km. The road is bad but each crossing has a lot to offer.

Mason Mapuranga, a 44-year-old Zimbabwean, has been doing this work for two years. He said he earns more than 600 euros per trip (10,000 rand).

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“Customers interact via WhatsApp, choose products, pay with a South African account and then I will deliver. It’s simple,” he told AFP. And it also allows him to avoid the uncertainties of changes in the local currency.

“At each delivery, we are greeted with smiles: it shows the level of gratitude, because these people, if they do not receive this food, will go hungry”, assuring the former truck driver. He himself lost his job during the pandemic.

Clever Murape, 35, makes a living selling scrap metal and mainly on the help sent by his sister, who works as a maid in South Africa. “My sister sends food through + malayitsha + every month,” she said. And between deliveries, the family of ten “rations”.

With approximately three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa and a large diaspora scattered around the world, relatives living abroad have long been the lifeline for returnees.

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In the capital Harare, queues lengthen daily in front of international transfer offices. According to the World Bank, 1.6 billion euros are sent to the country each year, or more than 10% of GDP.

But because of Covid, which has exacerbated poverty, the demand to send food or other basic necessities has grown directly and so far is not a formal market, online supermarkets have even launched applications to arrange deliveries. of cross-border.

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