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Fresh Zim lockdown stuns F/Town

LESEDI MKHUTSHWA
Ghost town: Haskins Street is empty as cross-border traders are behind a lockdown in Zimbabwe PICS: KEOAGILE BONANG
FRANCISTOWN: A Zim lockdown has badly affected Francistown as formal and informal businesses located along Haskins Street, popularly known as “Bulawayo Street”, are counting serious losses and could collapse due to the lockdown imposed by the Zimbabwean government recently.

The businesses along the same street were primed with hope that after the reopening of land borders early in December, they would see an improvement in their revenues. Zimbabwe cross-border traders are a strong source of revenue for formal and informal businesses in Francistown, many of them located along “Bulawayo Street”.

However, the Zimbabwe government’s recent decision to impose a lockdown in that country and close its borders, is a blow to local businesses since the Zimbabweans have been the backbone of economic activities and the last hope to restore sales to pre-COVID-19 levels.

This week, Mmegi visited Bulawayo Street and spoke to business owners to find out how their businesses are doing and what their plans were if the problems continue to escalate. The Mmegi news crew found that there was little sign of business activities taking place along the Street. The situation was so dire that there were no private cars, which normally park adjacent the Grand Plaza mall waiting to transport Zimbabweans to the border. There were also no signs of public transportation, which in the past abandoned the bus rank to make their pick-ups opposite Choppies Meriting.

Choppies Meriting branch manager, Thabo Anthony said the sales turnover has been very low.

He said while Zimbabweans are their biggest clientele and good for business, they also tend to be the group most responsible for theft and damage in the shop, contributing to losses.

“When they are not around, we do not have much shrinkage (inventory losses) and while our gross profits are just okay, our sales are massively affected,” he said. “We are thankful that against all odds the employer has not turned his back on us and trying to come up with means that could sustain the business in the meantime.”

Thaeletsanyo Technology Electric Goods shop owner, Liya Wu said there was no business at the moment because their biggest customers, referring to the Zimbabwean nationals, are currently on lockdown.

She said lately her business has been running at a loss and if the situation persists, she might as well shut down the shop.

“Business is very bad my friend,” she said. “As you can see, you have been standing here for a few minutes and no customer has walked into the shop.”

The concerned businesswoman further said

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when the borders were reopened in December, the business had been suffering cash flow problems but had hoped the situation would improve.

The devastated Wu said she was crossing her fingers for the improvement of the situation failing which she will be forced to pack her bags and return back home.

Grand Plaza Shop No: 11 managers, Naomi Mothupi echoed similar sentiments with Wu.

She said the situation was very bad and if it continues for the next month, the shop owner has warned that he might close the business for good.

“Without the Zimbabwean customers our business runs at a loss. “There are no customers and we are making less than P1, 000 in a day as compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic era where we surpassed P15, 000 or more in a day.”

The Shop No: 11 managers said already all employees are living in fear of being out of their jobs.

Speaking on behalf of her employer and owner of Grand Plaza shop No: 14 Chen Hui, Thato Buzwani shared the same sentiments with Wu and Mothupi.

She said the situation is so severe that their business is on the verge of collapsing.

According to the distressed employee, the owner is always complaining about the circumstances and even threatens to shut down the shop if the situation worsens.

“We are running at a loss whereas the expenses keep on mounting up,” she said.

A street vendor trading opposite to Grand Plaza Shop No: 6, Edwik Wick said they are equally affected by the situation.

Wick said she is running her small business at a loss.

“My dear the situation is very bad and there is nothing coming out of my hustle and everything is just doomed,” the 48-year-old bemoaned. “My family has experienced the worst Christmas ever.” “Before the lockdown my biggest customers were Zimbabwean, Namibians and Chinese nationals.”

Wick said from about 60 customers a day before Covid-19’s onset, she was now averaging 15.

“Zimbabweans were my biggest customers. They were also the backbone of the Grand Plaza because they would spend a lot of cash in Chinese shops and the same Chinese people will reinvest the money in the informal sector here.”

The vendor said if the situation persists, she would have no choice but to close down her stall.



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