As South Africa settles from the looting and violence following the jailing of former president, Jacob Zuma, and faces a slow recovery, neighbouring landlocked Zimbabwe is still counting losses.
Zimbabwe relies on South Africa for most of its capital imports and its fragile economy was this week still facing serious disruptions with the importation of raw materials and finished goods still constrained, worrying captains of industry.
Zimbabwe relies on South African ports for its imports, through the main highway from Durban through KwaZulu Natal Province, which was the epicenter of the violence which disrupted transportation.
The violence disrupted movement of cargo from Durban to Zimbabwe’s major inland port in Beitbridge. And even after calmed returned, congestion still slowed things up.
Beitbridge is also the major gateway to several southern and eastern African countries that use South African ports to move their imports and exports.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the umbrella body of local industries, said the country’s economy was too reliant on South Africa and future unrests would be catastrophic.
“Covid-19 and the current developments in South Africa drive further home the need for us to strengthen and deepen our value chains,” CZI said.
Some economists are projecting that Zimbabwe lost about $32 million on the week of violence due to supply chain disruptions. The subsequent congestion could mean further losses.
Zimbabwe imports goods and services worth close to $2 billion from South Africa annually, while its exports are valued at more than $2.4 billion.
One of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisors and a leading industrialist Busisa Moyo, on the week of the violence said “the disturbances in South Africa will affect the entire region. We will feel it in the next few days. Conserve cash, food, raw material, and other necessities.’’
Sifelani Jabangwe, a Harare-based industrialist, said, “If South Africa sneezes, we will certainly catch a cold as the southern African nation is our biggest trading partner, anything that happens will certainly have an effect on us,” told a local publication.
The Zimbabweans based in South Africa, estimated at over a million, also send back food and medication to their dependents back home in a country that has borne the brunt of perennial food shortages for nearly two decades.
This will also dent Zimbabwe’s efforts to recover from a drought and Covid-19 recession.
“The direct impact that the protests have is that we will certainly experience some shortages in the coming few weeks as we are living from hand to mouth as industry in terms of supplies, hence with violence on at the ports our supplies will be delayed further.
“The major problem is that banks are not giving significant amounts to import for two months or so, hence there is constant need of importing almost every two weeks.”
He added: “We don’t have working capital for the industry, hence our crisis has escalated more than those who are directly affected as we depend on weekly imports. We can say that our stock is basically in South Africa.”
Christopher Mugaga, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said the country was likely to face serious shortages in the coming few days.
“The trade between the two countries has been heavily interrupted and the movement of goods to inland Zimbabwe will be disrupted, hence companies’ operations will be affected, and this may result in some shortages,” Mr. Mugaga said.
“As a result, the country will lose over $32 million this week with the impact expected to be felt over the new few weeks as it takes time to recover destroyed or looted goods.”
Industrialists also warned of serious job losses in Zimbabwe as companies will face serious production disruptions in the coming weeks.
Besides the imports and exports, Zimbabwe relies heavily on remittances from its immigrant workforce in South Africa who send back home millions of dollars every year.
On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa held a virtual meeting with more than 90 business leaders in sectors hurt the most by the violence in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces. They included retail dealers, farm producers, bankers, logistics, and telecom players whose facilities had either been damaged or their businesses forced to close due to violence.
Ramaphosa proposed to enhance security by deploying more security as well as coordinating more on intelligence.