Wednesday, 15 April 2020


people queue to collect groceries
THE gap left by cross border transporters, popularly referred to as omalayitsha, is being filled by an online shopping platform as Zimbabweans based South Africa pay for groceries in the neighbouring country during the lockdown and their families collect locally.

Omalayitsha have for decades served thousands of Zimbabweans through their cross-border services.

But just like most businesses, their operations have been disrupted by the lockdown in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the movement of people being restricted to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Only cargo is allowed to enter both countries via the Beitbridge Border Post. 

The closure of borders to travellers among them cross border transporters has seen grabbing the opportunity to provide services previously dominated by omalayitsha.

A visit to’s Bulawayo shop showed scores of people collecting their groceries.

The groceries consist of mostly locally procured goods except for mealie-meal that is sourced in South Africa due to shortages locally.

Ms Phathisani Bhebhe said although she was accustomed to omalayitsha delivering goods at her doorstep, has ensured they continue to get groceries from their relatives in South Africa. 

“We are getting groceries including mealie-meal that we can’t access in our local shops. Even when it is delivered, the mealie-meal is sold to a few and unscrupulous people who then hoard it and sell it on the black market. Some of us cannot get that mealie-meal. So, this shop is very helpful to us.

“The only challenge at the moment is coming here to collect the groceries due to the lockdown. It’s difficult to convince law enforcement agents that we are coming to get groceries and not violating lockdown regulations,” said Ms Bhebhe.

Another beneficiary, Mr Promise Khumalo said he was a first-time recipient as for many years he depended on home deliveries by omalayitsha.

Other beneficiaries said while the shop was helping most of them, omalayitsha still provide a service that the shop cannot fill.

They said while the shop is making deliveries in towns, cross border transporters would go across the country even in rural areas to make deliveries.

A Chronicle news crew however observed one of the clients complaining about the delays in making deliveries.

Even though he requested that his transaction be reversed, other beneficiaries of online shopping expressed satisfaction with the services they were getting.

The shop operators revealed that they are providing similar services in four other cities in Zimbabwe: Harare, Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo.

The branch manager Mr Ashley Yafele said the shop which started operating last year in June has been overwhelmed with clients after the lockdown that came into effect two weeks ago.

He said before the lockdown they were handling at least 80 clients per day but the figures have since doubled.

Mr Yafele said mealie-meal was still being transported from South Africa.

“The business has significantly increased since the start of the lockdown in both countries. We are helping a lot of people get groceries from their loved ones in South Africa. Those in South Africa join our online application and start buying groceries for their families who then collect from here. We are a diaspora remittances organisation but unlike those providing cash remittances we provide material remittances mainly groceries,” he said.

Mr Yafele said they were more efficient and convenient as opposed to traditional omalayitsha as clients can get their goods 10 minutes after an order has been made in South Africa.

He said the company’s operations have led to increased productivity in some local sectors including those who provide them with flour and cooking oil. 

“However, due to shortages in the mealie meal supplies in the country we are forced to procure it from South Africa and it comes in cargo form. We don’t want to short change our clients who would have made their payments,” he said.

Mr Yafele said while the company can offer home deliveries within 20km radius of their shop, the drastic increase in the number of customers has seen it failing to cope resulting in a backlog. Chronicle


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