Others are simply amused about the whole issue.
Lingerie is like deodorant — one of those things that you walk into a shop and if they stock what you like you buy if you can afford it or you move on and shop around for reasonable prices.
I had never given a thought to the idea, let alone possibility that people were actually importing used underwear and reselling it.
A friend volunteered to accompany me to Mbare’s Mupedzanhamo market where one can buy second- hand clothes, shoes and of course used underwear.
To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was horrified by the fact that so many people were buying lingerie that had been worn before.
I grew up in a small family where I never had to share clothes or bed linen. I am not one of those girls who swap clothes or shoes with friends.
Even swapping earrings scares me. I can give people clothes but I cannot share, I just was not raised that way. I have friends who complain about sisters or cousins just walking in and borrowing shoes or clothes. For me it is not only a hygiene issue but also a space thing – if someone decides to wear my clothes I feel invaded. Simply put, if that happens I will not wear those particular clothes again.
I have always believed that lingerie is a very private thing that cannot be shared.
I guess circumstances differ and sometimes we are shielded from the horrors of what other people have to put up with.
In a country where more than 90% of the population is unemployed, I get why some people would think they are doing the nation a favour when they import used underwear.
Very few people have real disposable incomes and sometimes underwear becomes a luxury.
But I also get the fact that we should be proud enough to draw a line somewhere.
All Biti has done is simply say we are better than that.
Even Ghana banned the importation of used underwear for health reasons.
Some might view Biti as an arrogant minister but he is right.
We are poor yes but we must preserve some sense of dignity.
I toured some flea markets and shops in downtown Harare. They stock cheap lingerie from the Far East. Most likely the lingerie will not last more than five washes but you buy it new.
Some supermarkets too now stock underwear at reasonable prices. The quality of your underwear is a source of pride for most women, but it ceases to be so when you have to buy soiled underwear used by someone else before.
The traders at Mupedzanhamo told me that they wash the clothes and underwear and iron them so they are presentable but the fact remains, second-hand lingerie should just never be sold.
Instead of us lynching Biti, we should be engaging the government on how best to address our lingerie problems just like we did with the issue of sanitary ware.
If the government is talking of rebuilding the economy, one of the areas it needs to look at is derelict clothes factories around the country and help them back on their feet.
Real entrepreneurs should be encouraged and assisted to produce affordable lingerie.
This whole issue must be looked at as part of the wider reproductive health issue.
Covering your delicate bits with used underwear is not hygienic and might cause all sorts of health-related problems.
Innovative solutions to the problem
Some innovative Zimbabweans, using donor funds have come up with a sanitary pad that is re-usable.
While I still think it is not the best solution, it is a good start.
What needs to be done is enable these guys to produce an affordable sanitary pad that does not need to be washed and be re-used four to five times.
Like the lingerie industry, this is big business that could see Zimbabwe exporting a user friendly and inexpensive sanitary pad.
We should stop looking negatively at every decision made by government and hide behind the fact that “we are poor”.
Yes we might be poor but we should still have standards.
Admittedly, not everyone can afford breathtaking designer underwear but we should never compromise our health.
Used underwear should be banned. We should never be that country where just anything goes. In the early 80s we were a people that prized cleanliness and had a deep sense of pride of who we were and how others viewed us.
You do not have to have new clothes everyday but whatever few clothes you have must always be clean.
And if we chuck out something this year it must be used underwear.
Girls, get designing and start lingerie-making groups. Make Zimbabwe the lingerie fashion centre and let us start organising our own lingerie fashion week, keeping in mind that we need to cater for all in our society – the needy and the well-heeled.