Mid-day Update

Mid-day Extra: Banning secondhand underwear sales

Brian Hungwe Jan 16, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Zimbabwe has banned imports of second hand underwear. The government says it’s protecting the health and dignity of Zimbabwean women. But many Zimbabweans aren’t happy about the change because they say it’s the only underwear many can afford.

For today’s Mid-day extra, the BBC’s Brian Hungwe reports from the capital Harare.

Brian Hungwe: Sixty-eight percent of Zimbabweans live in poverty, so they already many of their clothes secondhand. But secondhand underwear has been a particular big seller here in recent years because it’s cheaper and considered better quality than new underwear imported from places like China. Most of the secondhand underwear is shipped to Zimbabwe from American and European charities.

You can buy three pairs of underwear for a dollar in most flea markets here in Harare. Customers and traders here say it’s clean and safe, so they’re angered by the ban.

Priscilla Mushonga is a Zimbabwean government minister. The ban was her idea. For her it’s a moral rather than an economic issue.

Priscilla Mushonga: I can’t for the life of me understand why women are using secondhand underwear.

She says it’s unhygenic, undignified, and carries health risks. The Zimbabwean government aren’t backing down over this ban, but they plan to help out local consumers struggling to buy cheap underwear by encouraging the domestic textile industry to fill the gap.

In Harare, I’m the BBC’s Brian Hungwe, for Marketplace.

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