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Chinese Traders Fearful As Zim Uncertainty Persists

Haskins street, well known as Bulawayo street in Francistown PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
FRANCISTOWN: Chinese traders here have expressed fear that their businesses may collapse should the current political uncertainty in Zimbabwe become protracted.

Last week, the Zimbabwean army took over control of the government in a bid to ‘purge’ those who are believed to have ill-advised  President Robert Mugabe. The army also labelled its actions a bloodless transition of government. The recent developments have thrown the country into further political turmoil and uncertainty.

Mugabe is currently under house arrest at his private residence in the capital Harare amidst strong calls for him to step down. In fact, by the time you read this, Mugabe might have stepped down. Yesterday, Zanu PF members demanded that Mugabe leave office with immediate effect. Mugabe is said to be resisting calls to step down. The controversial leader has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.

Yesterday, Thabo Xu who represented the Chinese traders who own shops in the city indicated that they have started feeling the pinch of the political unrest in Zimbabwe.

“Since last week, people have not been coming in large numbers. Until then, business was normal. Now, on a daily basis each shop receives an average of less than 20 people  (from Zimbabwe) who buy in bulk, which is almost less than half of the customers we used to receive (from Zimbabwe),” said Thabo, who also owns Neo Trading.

“Our business will definitely go down if the situation does not improve any time soon. We do have Zambian traders coming to buy, but they do not come with the same frequency as Zimbabweans normally do,” highlighted Thabo who earned the name because of his fluency in Setswana.

Thabo said if business continues to go down, some shops might be forced to shed staff or close if the political uncertainty in Zimbabwe worsens. One Zimbabwean who referred to himself as Mike, also said that in the last three days, business has significantly gone down. Mike transports goods for Zimbabwean traders from Francistown to Bulawayo for a fee. “I suspect

that people are not eager to come (to Francistown) because they are still assessing the situation back home. There is literally no business,” he said.

Another Zimbabwean transporter, Knowledge Magama said that since late last week he noticed that business has been going down. He also suspects that Zimbabwean traders are beginning to exercise caution and are not eager to do business as a result of the unfolding political crisis in the country.

“Prior to last week’s events, I transported an average of eight customers to Bulawayo daily. However since last week, I have transported three customers only (daily). I however remain optimistic that the political situation back home will be resolved soon.” He added that the trend (business which is going down) has also affected some Batswana traders and those in the informal sector who are now not coming in large numbers.  

For over a decade, Francistown Chinese traders have amply benefited from Zimbabwe business operators who purchase goods in Botswana to resell in their home country.

The Chinese shop owners have also created employment for dozens of Batswana. Other Batswana are employed at warehouses keeping stocks for the Chinese traders.

Batswana who are in transport industry and those in the informal sector have also benefited from Zimbabwean traders coming into the country thanks to Francistown’s proximity to the Ramokgwebana border post.

Employees of Chinese shops who interacted with The Monitor also confirmed that business has gone down as a result of the political instability in Zimbabwe.

Since Friday, Haskins Street, which houses many Chinese shops, has not been hyper active as usual and Thabo said that it was a strong indication that business had gone down. Very few people patronise the Chinese shops. Members of the Chinese business community have also in the past bemoaned the frequent changing  of regulations in Zimbabwe, saying it impacted negatively on their businesses.




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