Sport retailers in Harare report that business had been a bit quiet this week following the coup-that-was-not … but ascribe this rather to the pouring rain that kept customers indoors, or otherwise people being glued to their TV sets to follow the rapidly-changing events that might just result in a much-needed turnaround in the economy they have been hoping for.
The fact that trading has been quiet this week is also not different from other middle of the month periods, remarks a retailer. “Our sales are traditionally poor over this period and pick up from the 20th when salaries start to come in.”
“If anything, there is a sense of buoyancy and optimism that things can now improve and that a new government will be more focused on improving the economy and business in general,” says a sport retailer who wishes to remain anonymous.
“The only down side is sales have dropped dramatically this week as half the nation prefer to stay at home to watch the situation unfold, so there is a very bizarre situation here,” says another. “We have been open all along like all businesses and had full staff.
The message, it’s business as usual, from all the Zimbabwean sport retailers we managed to contact, however, means difficult trading conditions in a country where money is running out, even when most customers pay with credit cards, at a resultant cost to retailers.
“We have had a tough time as retailers this year with the scarcity of forex and increase in costs,” says a Harare retailer. “Any increase in confidence would be most welcome to retailers and the public at large. On the contra, if the politics gets messy and we return to what we have had for the past few years, then many people will throw in the towel and confidence will collapse.”
Zimbabweans have become used to forming long queues outside banks where cash withdrawals are capped at $100 per day (some banks only allow $50) and a traveller is limited to taking $1,000 (or R20 000) out of the country at a time.
“It is not as if we don’t have money in the bank – the problem is getting our money out of the banks,” says Mark Manolios, a revered doyen of the Zimbabwean sporting industry.
This cash-shortage also made things difficult for his South African suppliers, he says. Despite this, he has maintained very good relationships with his South African suppliers during the 44 years that he has been trading, and he is especially grateful for his supplier friends who phoned to check on him following news about the coup (that was not a coup).
Despite this, the Manolios’ have been trading well in the three stores that have made them a household name – which are now managed by his daughter Christina Evans. With 26 years’ experience on the Zimbabwe Olympic body and 12 years on the Sports Commission, Manolios is an iconic figure in the country’s sporting world. In hockey circles he has been revered as coach and manager – also of the famous women’s team that won Olympic gold in 1980.
He is therefore not scared of being quoted in this article – even when saying that the current government change had very much been needed for a long time. Especially if the new government will be business friendly and the currency problems can be addressed.
There is an air of confidence that a better future will be soon upon us, but there is still apprehension that there is still some water to go under the bridge yet, says a retailer who wants to remain anonymous. If change does not come, the situation will be dramatically worse than the situation we had last week as hope for our future will disappear.”
Another retailer fears that if a stalemate ensues about forming a new government, the country could enter into a serious problem, possibly civil war! “However, if (Emmerson) Mnangagwa becomes president, (Morgan) Tsvangarai Prime Minister and a GNU is formed for next 5 years (as has been discussed), elections cancelled, and the right team is put together, I have no doubt Zimbabwe will boom from an economic perspective!” he says. “Today/ this weekend is crucial and will map our future one way or another!
“Also, our major concerns are the AU, SADC and Zuma. Zimbabweans DO NOT trust any of them purely from a political point of view. We wish South Africa would stay out of this – last time Mbeki came here, he helped change the election outcome from Tsvangirai winning by a long way (73% of the votes) to getting Bob back in!