The Gaborone Bus Rank is a continuous hive of activity, and it has become the informal business hub, where any form of business goes.
Life at the bus rank is very fast, and only the scheming and the switched on can withstand and survive the intense competition there. Not every Jack and Jill can survive at the Gaborone bus rank.
At the bus rank customers do not even have to ask for directions or declare where they are going, because the ushers and conductors are always on the lookout for potential customers, and they direct anyone where they want to go.
They have the whole city in their fingertips, and they know every destination like the back of their hand.
Their job is to outsmart the competition and lure customers to their preferred busses. Then they get into the next item of business, loading customers’ luggage. The ushers and conductors are at the bus rank as early as 5.30am, since most buses leave around 6am. It might appear as a desperate form of employment, but that is what they do, and they do it proudly. Unlike many of us, they have a boss and they get a salary at the end of the day. One of them said business peaks in the evening as most people, especially Zimbabweans, will be travelling home.
“I can take home as much as P400 a day” he said.
But such amounts do not come easy, as there is continuous jostling for customers, which can at times lead to fist fights.
Also busy selling their wares aptly in step with the busy ushers and conductors are the famous Mazezuru women and their children. These ones are a marvel to watch. Their children, who are in their school going age, spend the whole day manning the stalls or supporting their mothers. They have invaded the bus rank and made it their place of abode.
The Mazezurus are involved in a diversified business that ranges from foreign currency exchange, women cosmetology and selling any kinds of produce.
Some of these women sit in groups at one stall. Most of them are married to one husband, such that the groups actually run family businesses.
They have a ready clientele for their foreign exchange dealings. Zimbabweans and Zambians who will be travelling home, or looking for local currencies to lodge in the nearby Gaborone Hotel, provide a thriving business to the forex dealers.
One of the vendors revealed that their skin lightening creams are in great demand among local women. They are very reasonably priced, ranging from P30 to P45. However the price is usually negotiable, and depends on the customer’s ability to bargain.
There are also those who sell fake designer clothing, pirated CD’s and pirated movies. Competition among these guys is very stiff as many of them sell the same product.
There are also vendors who sell fresh vegetables that range from tomatoes, onions, green vegetables, potatoes and cabbages.
Within the rank there are numerous maroon face brick buildings that have turned out to be very useful as they are used as miniature restaurants and canteens. As early as 6am the chefs are on their posts, preparing food for the thousands of customers who will be looking for breakfast early in the morning.
Of course, the pickpockets will always be there. They blend into the throng of passer buys and surreptitiously steal from their bags and pockets. At the Gaborone bus rank, one has to be very careful, and hold tight onto their possessions. Some steal cell phones, perfumes and clothes in shops, and immediately sell them off to willing buyers at give away prices.