Shoppers left stranded as internet shutdown takes toll on supermarkets

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

MANY shoppers in Harare were Friday left stranded when they failed to purchase goods using electronic systems of exchange as a government freeze on the internet this week took a toll on business.

Government ordered the blocking of the internet and social media platforms following three days on intense rioting by locals who were angered by recent increases on fuel prices.

But while the social media blockade may have played a part in preventing easy communication among organisers of the three day stay-away, business was left counting its losses after its machines were also cut off communication channels such as the internet.

Supermarkets reopened for business Friday but most customers were left frustrated when shops demanded cash which they did not have.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu confirmed the hitches which he admitted were linked to internet challenges.

“I have received reports that some of the bank cards were not working on the swipe machines due to the internet,” said Mutashu.

“In some supermarkets, the internet connection was very, very slow, thereby affecting transactions.

“But the full impact will come in few days time since today (Friday) was our first full day of operation. Most members had closed due to the recent stay away and disturbances that followed.

“And also we will see how the four day stay away impacted on our businesses in the next few days since we had not been trading.”

Friday was the first day of normal trading for most supermarkets, some of which were looted by marauding mobs which found them open during the protest period.

Long queues could be seen in supermarkets within and on the immediate peripheries of the city centre as shoppers turned up in their dozens to buy basics in order to replenish food stocks and other essentials which had been used up during the stay away period.

Till operators struggled with transactions due to internet connectivity. In some cases, it took some 30 minutes for a single electronic transaction to go through.

Meanwhile, bread and other perishables could not be found on the shelves Friday after major bakeries failed to produce during the stay away.