A Zimbabwean lawmaker held up a pair of used female underwear in parliament during a televised debate as she sought to highlight the plight of poor women unable to afford new garments.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), produced a plastic bag and took out two samples during a ministerial questions session on Wednesday.
“I would like to ask the minister of finance, what is the government policy on the importation of second-hand underwear which may harm women’s health in the long term, but are cheap?” she said.
“If you look at the two pairs of panties that I have here: these ones are brand new and cost two dollars or more, but these ones, which are secondhand, cost one dollar for two pairs.”
In response, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa chided Misihairabwi-Mushonga for her actions but promised to look into the issue.
“Before I answer this important question, I believe the honourable member should have not gone that far to make her point,” he said.
“Anyway, I will see if I cannot make an intervention during my mid-term policy statement next week.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga was later ejected from the chamber for confronting a ruling ZANU-PF lawmaker whom she accused of making sexist remarks during her presentation.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downturn for more than a decade, creating dire poverty and mass unemployment.
Cheap second-hand clothes have flooded into the country, often imported from Mozambique and Zambia.
Some of the garments are made in China, while some are reportedly charity donations from Europe.
In 2012, then finance minister Tendai Biti called for a ban on the import of used underwear citing health risks and the threat to human dignity.