By Akani Chauke
SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs), hailed as the cornerstone of the South African economy, are set to thrive following the reopening of the border with Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
The closure of the Beitbridge border post, the busiest in Sub-Saharan Africa, in March greatly affected SMEs in South Africa, which mainly rely on mostly cross-border traders and visitors from Zimbabwe in general.
The closure was part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) between countries.
Towns around the border had been left resembling ghost towns with the absence of the enterprising and entrepreneurial citizens from the north of the Limpopo River.
“Without Zimbabweans coming to Musina, Louis Trichardt, Polokwane and Ṱhohoyanḓou, local businesses in Limpopo Province cannot be the same,” Rudzani Muleya, a Musina entrepreneur told CAJ News Africa.
Muleya added, “Zimbabweans are our chief customers. They possess buying power that transforms our economy.”
A high number of Zimbabweans cross the border to buy some goods that are not always available in their country following the economic problems blamed on the sanctions imposed by Western nations at the turn of the millennium.
Another South African entrepreneur, Shalati Chauke, welcomed the reopening of the border.
“This is the moment all Limpopo SMEs have been waiting for,” Chauke said.
“Zimbabweans are our economic pillars in Limpopo province,” Chauke, who sells second hand cars in Musina, added.
Some civil servants said ultimately, they would benefit from the anticipated revival of the Limpopo and, ultimately, that of the South African economy.
The economy has bled jobs during the COVID-19.
“We are ready to start welcoming them (Zimbabweans) here (Limpopo) on Tuesday,” said an officer with the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Locals said this shattered the myth that Zimbabweans were in South Africa to take their jobs.
They also spoke out against xenophobia, which usually flares in some major cities, perpetrated by locals that were ignorant of the value foreigners added to Africa’s most advanced albeit struggling economy.
The Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum (ZDF) underlined the foreigners’ indirect role in economic revival.
“We are happy to hear South Africans acknowledging that the towns of Musina, Louis Trichardt, Polokwane and Ṱhohoyanḓou have become ghost cities owing to the absence of people from the neighbouring country. Their return will help create jobs and redeem South Africa from junk status,” a ZDF official said.
Last Friday, the South African Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, and his Zimbabwe counterpart, Kazembe Kazembe met to take forward areas of mutual interest, including the Intervention Plan on Traffic Congestion at the Beitbridge-Musina border post.