S.African businesses on knife edge due to Mugabe’s import ban law


A day after Zimbabweans headed a Pastor’s call to stay at home and force their government to lift the ban on imports – a company across the border is feeling the pinch and paying a hefty price.

READ: #ZimbabweShutdown

Boss Exports, a company that built its business on Zimbabweans buying goods to import back home – is having a dry day – so dry that many risk losing their jobs and food on the table.

READ: Zimbabweans stay at home in protest against economic hardships 

On this day, workers are basking in the sun. Their boss is more frustrated than most.

“We didn’t have time to sit around like this, we used to be busy and now everyone is suffering, from exporters to those who made a living through loading trucks,” one of the senior staff members at Boss Exports tells me as we tour the company facilities in Crown Mines, south of Johannesburg.

The loading space for Zimbabwean trucks is now occupied by workers whose future no one can tell. For a company that used to make millions worth of sales a day to Zimbabwe, the price of President Robert Mugabe’s imports ban is too hard to bear.

“We are the victims of Zimbabwe’s ban on imports. We have a good number of clients in Zimbabwe and on a good day we could export about 60 tonnes of products ranging from cosmetics to detergents and that has sharply fallen to three tonnes on average a day,” Jeffrey Mbale, Sales Controller tells me from his office.

Ziyaad Hajee, the Managing Director of the company says the recent ban on imports was the fourth intervention this year by Harare authorities.

“Changes in import legislation take place usually at the beginning of every month as a way to collect extra revenue to meet the country’s wage bill. In January, February, April and July the Zimbabwean government promulgated pieces of law meant to either curb imports or boost duty fares to help improve revenue stream,” he says.

Hajee tells me that this month it’s quieter than usual.

“We get a good few millions from Zimbabwe and with this new legislation this might be the end. Zambia is our largest market followed by Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” he says pointing to other challenges that will come with the new law.

“The ban is affecting our sales, purchases and this will eventually affect everyone downstream. If I lose all my Zimbabwean clients, I will have to trim my staff and the same will happen to my suppliers. It’s a lollipop situation – if my products are not bought the entire value chain is shafted,” adds Hajee.

Other than exporters, transport operators are feeling the pinch as they now carry fewer and fewer goods meaning their purse is getting thinner by the day.

As we tour Newtown Bus Terminus that mainly ferries goods and passengers to Zimbabwe, a load of building material is abandoned as owners can’t afford to take them home only to leave at the Beitbridge Border Post.