Economic activity in Francistown is feeling the pressure of a blanket import ban imposed by President Robert Mugabe in a bid to protect Zimbabwe’s industry.
Chinese textile traders are the most affected as for many years they have survived on the patronage of scores of Zimbabwean cross border dealers. With Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate estimated at almost 85percent, most Zimbabweans had found solace in cross border trade.
For almost two decades now, Zimbabweans have been frequenting Francistown to buy clothing items and electrical gadgets in the form of refrigerators, television sets and satellite dishes for reselling at a profit in their native country.
However, the introduction of a blanket import ban in June this year has resulted in the Chinese merchants feeling the pinch.
“Our businesses are built on Zimbabweans buying goods to take to their country. But it is becoming dry by each passing day,” said Chung, who has been operating his shop along the once busy Haskins Street in Francistown for almost eleven years now.
A two-week long observation by Voice Money has established that a number of workers were basking in the sun – a scenario that was not normal when Zimbabwean cross border traders used to come in droves.
Shop attendants interviewed by Voice Money have expressed fear that they will soon lose their jobs because business is very low.
Tapiwa Morebodi has been working for the Chinese for eight years and from the look of things, her job is hanging on a knife edge, she said.
“Our boss is frustrated. But we are more frustrated than most here. The writing is on the wall that many of us will be losing jobs and no food will be put on the table,” said Morebodi, a single mother of four.
Efforts to get an official comment from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Francistown proved futile, but a member of the chamber reluctantly said that they will approach the Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Vincent Seretse and urge him to persuade his Zimbabwean counterpart to lift the import ban. Voice