A Zimbabwean flag is draped over his shoulders, while scarfs in the colours of the country’s two major political parties hang from his arms.
“Election time is a good time for business,” he says, in between trying to sell his wares to drivers and passengers stuck in the slow-moving afternoon traffic.
Shapure, a father of two, has been selling goods on Harare’s jacaranda-lined streets for the past 18 years.
Typically, his merchandise includes matchsticks, keyholders, stickers and water – but not these days.
As Zimbabwe prepares to hold a crucial general election on Monday, Shapure replaced his usual offerings with memorabilia of the ruling ZANU-PF and the main opposition MDC parties.
“This ZANU-PF scarf, I’m selling for $15. This MDC scarf, I’m selling for $12,” he says, pointing to his wares. “We sell a lot.”
After weeks of hawking party merchandise, Shapure adapted to his clientele and learned to price his goods accordingly.
“ZANU-PF supporters have more money than MDC’s. They are willing to pay anything. That is why I charge them more,” he says with a smile.
For people like Shapure, as well as small business owners, this is boom time.
Lovemore Mapiro runs a printing business in the Zimbabwean capital. In the lead-up to the hotly-contested election, he has been travelling up and down the country delivering orders and taking in new ones from candidates and party.
“MDC people usually buy plenty of stuff at times like this,” says the 34-year-old, shortly after returning from the second city of Bulawayo, where he delivered election-related material to a rally by the party challenging President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF.
“They are used to the party being in the bush [political wilderness] so they know they must support their party so it wins. I go to every rally done by MDC, I go everywhere in Zimbabwe as long as there is a rally – I will use my own transport to get there so I can sell my things,” he added.
Mapiro says he now makes $300 a day – more than half of his earnings before the start of the election campaign.
Hotels have also seen a surge in customers amid a growing international interest in the landmark election following last year’s resignation of decades-long President Robert Mugabe in the wake of a military intervention.
Continued next page