Francistown’s ever-popular Chinese shops have become a little more crowded with the recent influx of shoppers from Lesotho.
Attracted by the ‘quality and affordability’ offered by the second city’s numerous Chinese outlets, an increasing number of Lesotho nationals are making the 2, 474km round journey from their homeland to the Ghetto in their search for a bargain.
Popular items include clothes, blankets and shoes, which traders buy in bulk and then re-sell for a sizeable profit on their return to Lesotho.
One such dedicated traveller, 38-year-old Mawetse Getle told Voice Money this was her third trip to Francistown in as many months.
Explaining the second city’s attraction, which has long lured Zimbabweans and Zambians to the Northern Capital, Getle said, “The things we buy in these Chinese shops are of high quality.
“We have started coming to Botswana instead of South Africa where we used to shop, because Francistown has stuff that Mzanzi does not.”
Having spent the day in Francistown after arriving in the morning, Getle, who was just about to set off on the long trip home in a Quantam she had hired with a group of her countrymen – a journey which she explained would take about 14 hours – added, “When we buy our stock here it does not take long to be bought in Lesotho. We even have our loyal customers who give us orders so when we come we buy for them.”
Another satisfied foreigner, 46-year-old Maitumeleng Muthebo, said, “It is my first time coming to shop in Francistown. The reason I came here is because I heard people saying Botswana clothes and jackets are beautiful and indeed they are!”
For his part, Hua Wei Lai, 28, who owns a small shop on Haskins Street, revealed his stock has been ‘flying off the shelves’ since the arrival of the Basotho.
“Our customers from Lesotho started buying in our shop this May and they like the fleeces, soft blankets and big blankets – maybe is just because the weather that side is cold!
“Our shops are located exactly where they park their vehicles and they start by getting in our shop; business is doing great we cannot complain. Foreigners from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho are the ones buying our goods in bulk,” commented Lai.
Local food vendors have also benefited, with Boitumelo Morebodi telling Voice Money her meals now sell-out in three hours whereas before she would have leftovers after a day of selling on the street.
“People from Lesotho are just like Batswana, they eat the very same food we are eating here. They especially like papa and meat. And they are my loyal customers; foreigners really help us because Batswana do not buy food like them,” reflected Morebodi.