Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, was once a relatively stable and prosperous part of Africa. It was a popular destination for tourists visiting safari parks along the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. After independence in 1980 and the rise of Robert Mugabe, things began to fall apart. A policy of land redistribution in which white-owned farms were confiscated led to international sanctions and suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. By 2003, Zimbabwe’s economy had collapsed and it was regarded as a pariah state. Basic living standards worsened over the years and many in Zimbabwe now live in extreme poverty.
Many businesses in Zimbabwe were forced to close as the economy declined. One of these was the Ximex Mall in the capital Harare. Once one of the most famous shopping locations in all of Zimbabwe, the country’s economic collapse meant the mall was unsustainable and it was forced to close.
Ximex Mall had an interesting history spanning back decades. The property developer, Sam Levy, converted a car showroom into a department store in the 1960s and then later into a shopping mall. Despite trading through some of the worst periods of Zimbabwe’s economic downfall, the mall was eventually closed and was sold on for redevelopment. The new owners, NSSA (National Social Security Authority) had plans to build a multi-storey office and shopping destination however political and economic instability meant development stalled.
While the mall remained closed and abandoned, it became a hub for street vendors trading illegally and selling items such as phones. Police were constantly raiding the building to shut it down however the street dealers returned. Many people in the economically ravaged country take chances where they can to make ends meet. The Ximex Mall became a waste ground with rubbish piling up in various parts of the mall. It became a hive of down-market activity, earning the nicknames Trade Center and Hustlers’ Paradise. Zimbabwe’s black market economy thrived during the years of international isolation with goods which had entered Zimbabwe illegally doing brisk trade in the Ximex Mall.
Eventually, the building was demolished and a temporary car park was installed however, this too became a centre for illegal street trading. The NSSA’s plans for an 11 storey office block stalled due to lack of funds and the area remains at the mercy of the illegal vendors.