Second-hand Clothes:Grace stands accused

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Mrs Mugabe is facing legal action by enraged second-hand clothes sellers in Harare.

Mrs Mugabe, who is the wife of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, is facing legal action by the enraged second-hand clothes sellers in Harare.

Zimbabwe Informal Sector’s Organisation (ZISO) says it will sue Mrs Mugabe for selling-hand  clothes they imported at about £200 a bale.

Importing second-hand clothes and shoes is banned in Zimbabwe as part of a crackdown on street vendors, which critics claim is a veiled attempt atsocial cleansing in the city.

Police recently confiscated tonnes of used clothes and other goods from thousands of Harare’s informal traders as they tried, unsuccessfully, to clear up the city centre.

A street vendor in Harare, Zimbabwe

Street vendors in Zimbabwe such as this one say they often have to sleep in the city at night because they can’t afford to go home until the weekend  Photo: Alamy

The First Lady was seen handing out 150 bales of second-hand clothes confiscated by municipal police to crowds of Zanu PF supporters, at a rally last week in northern Zimbabwe.

ZISO director Promise Mkwananzi said he has hired a solicitor who will use statements made by Mrs Mugabe when she handed over bales of clothing last week.

“ZISO will make an urgent court application to stop the first lady from donating wares which do not belong to her.

“This is an illegal exercise and she must stop it,” Mr Mkwananzi told Newsday, a Harare newspaper.

The street sellers claim their bales of second-hand clothes were “stolen” from them before being given, illegally, to Mrs Mugabe.

Mrs Mugabe, who took more white-owned farms then anyone else since the land grab began in 2000, and is now a member of Zanu PF’s politburo, laughed as she handed out the clothes at a rally near her husband President Robert Mugabe’s home district about 50 miles north of Harare.

“I have brought many things for you, among them are 150 bales of second-hand clothes . . .you are going to wear them and we are giving them out without looking at whether you can fit in or not,” she said to rapturous applause.

“Don’t buy second-hand clothes, don’t import them because when they are confiscated by police and authorities, they are given to me as the mother so that I could distribute them to many people for free.”

She warned supporters receiving the clothes, mostly manufactured in Europe, the United States and Australia, that for health reasons they should wash them before they put them on.

Scores of vendors were reportedly beaten up and arrested by municipal police early July and at least 17 now face trial accused of illegal trading. Most vendors chased from the city centre have since returned.

The clothes sellers, who mostly operate near Harare’s oldest cemetery, sell women’s shirts for about £1.30, less then 10 percent of the cost of a new Zimbabwe-made garment.

Some who import bales of clothes via Mozambique say Mrs Mugabe is selling their stolen goods.

“We paid for those clothes. We don’t want to sell on the streets. There are no jobs. It is hard and it is dirty and sometimes we have to sleep in the city at night because we can’t afford to go home until the weekend.

“We depend on those second-hand clothes to survive,” said a 55-year-old mother of three adult children who are all unemployed.-The Telegraph