It has been a rough and tumultuous week for those dependent on the trade between Zimbabwe and South Africa for their livelihoods.
The Southern African nation of Zimbabwe has been flooded with protests, violence and chaos at the border post separating the country with South Africa. This over the recently imposed food bans between the two countries.
This led to the closure of the Beit Bridge Border Control for the first time since it was set up in 1929, a closure that was widely felt in South Africa’s town of Musina who are the major benefiters of the $4-billion-a-year trade between the two countries.
“It’s affected us very badly because since last week Friday the whole town was closed,” says Rocky Jadeja, a local business man who has built up Mega Cash & Carry over the last 23 years with the help of trades from Zimbabwe.
Jadeja’s grandfather moved into Musina 80 years ago where his family grew ever since. The ban on imports into Zimbabwe is one of the biggest threats to the family business in nearly a century.
“If [the] ban continues I would say maybe within a month or two, if it carries on, you will see 80 per cent of the town will be empty. We have to look for another option because Musina’s business relies completely on Zimbabweans. We have a local trade which is only at the end of the month when they get their salaries, but 99 per cent comes from Zimbabwe,” says Jadeja.
Businesses opened up shop for the first time on Friday since the imposed ban. This could be short-lived because of the planned shutdown on Wednesday, July 13 and Thursday, July 14.
Some Zimbabwean businessmen braved the border to go buy a few commodities in Musina. They weren’t buying as much as they normally would, fearing their goods would be seized by officials at the border.
Others that had the same fear opted to make their own way across illegally. Fearing for their safety, identities were guarded.
“I’m here to buy bananas and tomatoes which I will sell in Zimbabwe, but I’ll make a channel to go through because they won’t allow us to cross at the border,” says a Zimbabwean on a bike who asked to remain anonymous.
“We are not going to cross at the border, we will go back over the river,” said another who had stacked up groceries on a van.
Living in hope that this is not the end of the relationship with his travelling customers, Jadeja believes there could be a better solution than the ban.
“I believe they’re going to increase the duty from 40 per cent to 80 per cent, but we don’t know the reality still because Saturday also we heard nothing,” says Jadeja.
The people in charge in Musina were not willing to talk. CNBC Africa made efforts to get comment from both the local police and the Beit Bridge Border Control officials. Neither were willing to comment.