THOUSANDS of Zimbabweans employed and running companies in neighbouring countries could find the going tough after the countries started promulgating laws that put their nationals first in terms of business opportunities and employment.
In 2019, data from Statistics South Africa and the United Nations showed that the number of migrants from Zimbabwe living in South Africa was about one million, while thousands are based in Botswana.
Botswana has already passed a law which comes into effect tomorrow where a number of business sectors have been reserved for locals only.
According to the country’s Industrial Development Act, manufacturing enterprises which shall be reserved for citizens include; bread and confectionery, ice making, meat processing, peanut butter, purification and bottling of water, traditional sour milk and sorghum.
Other manufacturing industries that would be reserved for Botswana citizens are bricks, burglar bars, gates and windows, candles, fencing material excluding gum poles, floor polishing, packaging, protective clothing, roof trusses, school furniture, school uniforms, screen printing and embroidery, signage, including electronic signage, traditional craft and traditional leather products.
Further, according to the Act businesses registration certificates shall be reserved for citizens or for companies wholly owned by citizens in the following sectors; agents, auctioneers, car wash, cellphone shops, cleaning services, curio shops, dry clean depots, florist, general dealers, general hire services, imported pre-owned motor dealer, internet café and copy shops and laundromat business. The bulk of these businesses used to house Zimbabweans, sources in Botswana said, without giving any figures.
In South Africa, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has hinted that the country must consider amending its labour market policies to favour unemployed South Africans.
“The new economy that we are getting into after the lifting of the lockdown must answer that question. Any establishment wanting to reopen must have a new labour market policy which prioritises South Africans but does not discriminate against (foreign nationals). The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans,” Minister Mboweni told the South African media.
In an interview with Sunday News, social commentator, Mr Steven Dhlamini said life after Covid-19 will not go back to normal with most Zimbabweans based in neighbouring countries being forced to come back home with the job market in both South Africa and Botswana no longer conducive for them.
“The Covid-19 pandemic finds Zimbabwe in an economic quagmire and it has exacerbated the economic malice on the average citizen whose economic sustainability had been pivoted on the informal sector. Thus, the influx of returnees — most of whom do not have formal education — will increase the size of unemployment and place significant pressure on the limited resources. The Government will be under pressure to provide social welfare. The Government will be the most important engine for economic growth with agriculture and the whole food value chain being the fulcrum for economic growth and employment creation. Crime is going to be on the rise and a lot of people are at risk of serious food shortages,” said Mr Dhlamini.
South Africa-based academic, Dr Shepard Mpofu said Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring country were now hard hit as the South African government has started working on policies to benefit its citizens only. He said that “segregation” would be further felt whenever the lockdown comes to an end with various countries already promulgating laws that were to benefit their citizens.
“The post-lockdown world will be characterised by people who have been affected in various ways by the Covid-19 pandemic. What is more tragic is that those who have been pushed outside their countries of residence due to economic decline are going to return home and find themselves job searching again. And during the pandemic, South Africa seems to have injected some money into the economy, and this injection seems to be targeted at helping citizens and local companies. The excluded non-South Africans have to go to their respective countries to start afresh,” said Dr Mpofu.
He said the danger was that the returnees might contribute to the unemployment rate in the local market and at worse, might also contribute to crime.
“One thing for sure, they are likely to return to South Africa and Botswana where they are going to restart their lives, whichever way they deem fit,” said Dr Mpofu.-sundaynews