Zimbabwe shuts South Africa's gateway into Africa
Last week, the Zimbabwean Government implemented a law causing major unrest in the border towns of Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The introduction of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 (SI64) restricts the import of certain goods from South Africa into Zimbabwe. This includes items like plastic pipes, doors, bottled water, window frames, baked beans, potato chips... Even peanut butter got the cut.
As a result, protests have flared up at Beitbridge and Musina. This is bad for South Africa or the people of Zimbabwe...
The impact of SI64 will hurt the South African economy
As one of the most important border towns in Africa, Musina has been growing dramatically over the last ten years. Retailers moved to the town to meet the increasing demand of South African foods and goods from Zimbabweans crossing the border.
This intense cross border trade in Musina created hundreds of jobs for South Africans as desperate Zimbabweans streamed into the town to buy goods, food and water to take back into their country.
Informal businesses thrived as hawkers peddling fruit and vegetables would sell out most, if not all of their stock in a single day.
The implementation of this law in Zimbabwe will dry up trade, result in serious job losses and destroy small businesses. This is something that South Africa just can’t afford right now.
Zimbabwe is South Africa’s gateway into Africa
South African exporters will have to tighten their belts too. Beitbridge border gives them access to export goods to Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi. With this law in place, access to these African countries is basically shut off.
According to Fin24, “South Africa’s International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said, “Government will continue to engage Zimbabwe for a solution that is mutually beneficial as Zimbabwe remains one of South Africa’s strategic partners in the region.”
Premature action from outdated leadership results in more suffering for the people
In my opinion, Zimbabwe had no choice but to implement this new legislation. Most of the people in the country were looking to South Africa to survive because of the cheaper products. This saw Zimbabwe lose out on essential economic opportunities in the manufacturing and sale of goods.
But I believe the sudden execution of the SI64 legislation was premature. The country should first have focused its attention on upgrading outdated manufacturing machinery in that country to drive up demand for local products, before it cut the people off from cheaper products in South Africa.
But with outdated leadership at the helm of our neighbouring state, I’m not surprised at the lack of foresight geared towards true economic development in Zimbabwe.