BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
THE violent protests triggered by the jailing of former South African president Jacob Zuma may suffocate Zimbabwe’s raw material supply chain and cause commodity shortages, economists have said.
The violent protests saw marauding crowds blocking major roads that link the Durban port, and burnt shops and factories in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces. More than 100 people have died so far in the bloody skirmishes.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are trade partners exchanging goods worth about US$340 million per month.
Some of the key industrial raw materials are imported into Zimbabwe using the Durban port and major South African roads.
Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said the unrest was likely to trigger price hikes due to shortages of commodities.
“Yes, as you know South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner and the ongoing disturbances are disrupting trade between the two countries. There is likely to be a temporary supply of commodities in the economy which could put pressure on local pricing,” Chitambara said.
Economist Victor Bhoroma said exports and import movement will jeopardise Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector.
“The violent protests will impact Zimbabwe’s trade with South Africa valued at over US $340 million per month. The burning of property, especially haulage trucks, warehouses and gun violence will disturb the flow of raw materials as we are already experiencing delays,” Bhoroma said.
“The port of Durban is the gateway to trade for most Sadc countries. Exports movement will also be slowed down by the violence and unrest depending on how long the protests last. This will lead to temporary shortages of raw materials and other commodities.”
He said the unrest may also provoke xenophobic sentiments exposing over 2 million Zimbabweans living across the Limpopo.
“South Africa is home to an estimated 2,5 million Zimbabweans and millions of other foreign nationals that provide critical skills in the most affected provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The unrest will lead to fears of a resurgence in xenophobia and closure of markets or malls where foreign nationals are employed. This creates uncertainty for those expatriates,” he said.
Economist Morden Moven said the violent protests in South Africa will affect business in Zimbabwe.
“Imagine you have been waiting for months for some repair parts on a factory plant and these are the goods which are being looted. So you can imagine what this pandemonium will imply for production and other sectors of the economy,” Moven said.
Economist Takudzwa Chisango said given that trade between the two neighbouring countries account for about 70% of our trade, the ongoing skirmishes in South Africa will hit business.
“I was at Beitbridge border post this week and activity was very low, reflecting the impact the unrest has caused. Supply chains have been interrupted and initial estimates indicate that potential revenue in the region of US$20 to US$30 million has been lost due to slow activity,” Chisango said.