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SA 21-day lockdown: Zimbabwe to feel the pinch

As South Africa goes into a 21-day lockdown Thursday midnight, as part of a raft of measures to contain the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19), it goes without saying that Zimbabwe, which imports a variety of products from Africa’s most industrialised economy, will feel the pinch.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Monday said the country would go into a 21-day lockdown from midnight of 26 March to midnight of 16 April 2020 as part of the measures to deal with COVID-19.

The number of confirmed cases in South Africa leapt to 709 on Wednesday.

During the shutdown shops and businesses will be closed, with the exemption of pharmacies, laboratories, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations and healthcare providers.

Health workers, emergency personnel and security services will be allowed to work, while soldiers will be deployed to patrol the streets in support of the police.

Ramaphosa, however stressed South Africans will still be able to leave their homes to seek medical care, buy food or collect a social grant.

There is no doubt that Zimbabwe, which imports 40 percent of its raw materials from South Africa will be negatively affected by this lockdown.

Matabeleland which has over the years relied on cross-border traders, popularly known as omalayitsha bringing foodstuffs into the country every month is set to be affected by the lockdown.

Social commentator, Methuseli Moyo, told CITE the looming South African lockdown had created uneasiness in Matabeleland.

“The lockdown has caused anxiety among both business and residents in the region because of the reliance on SA for supplies and stocks,” said Moyo.

“That is why suddenly there are queues at grocery shops and meat suppliers. There is fear that food might run out during the lockdown.”

He added: “Most small and even some big businesses utilise omalayitsha for logistics and restocking, and if those are grounded there could be challenges. The alternative would be to rely on local goods sold at markets, such as those at Old Renkini and Entumbane bus terminus.”

Moyo emphasised the need for locals to know the choices available to avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous traders, some of whom have since more than doubled prices.

Khanyile Mlotshwa, another social commentator, said the lockdown means it will no longer be business as usual for those who would want to travel between Zimbabwe and South Africa during the lockdown.

“Business will be low because people will not be moving around especially in Johannesburg which is the disease’s epicentre,” said Mlotshwa.

He added Zimbabweans wishing to send goods home during the shutdown were likely to face challenges since human movement would be curtailed.

National Consumer Rights Association (NACORA) spokesperson, Effie Ncube, said the lockdown would affect livelihoods north of the Limpopo.

“As a result of the lockdown, there is going to be tremendous hunger and suffering in the country,” said Ncube.

“Do not forget that by closing the borders you are not just protecting the people from externally transmitted Coronavirus cases but you are also closing off mealie-meal and other basic commodities that people depend on. Remember the country is no longer a manufacturing country so most of the basic commodities that people depend on are not manufactured in Zimbabwe. They have to be imported.”

Economist, Prosper Chitambara, said the shutdown would heavily weigh down on the Zimbabwean economy affecting the supply chain, considering 40 percent of its imports come from South Africa.

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