By Thupeyo Muleya
Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in Beitbridge are feeling the heat as a result of the national lockdown meant to manage the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The country’s major border town has over 70 000 residents and also plays host to an about 14 000 transient population daily.
Local businesses have said that while they welcome the national response programme to minimise infections and fatalities related to Covid-19, a negative impact was already being felt.
Beitbridge Business Association chairman, Mr Nkululeko Milidi, said yesterday:
“This is a very serious disease. Most businesses here are counting losses estimated to be a combined R3,5 million daily. However, it is critical to note that the immediate task is to save lives and then capacitate all those affected when the situation returns to normalcy.
“Generally, we support the well-meaning efforts by the Government and are hopeful that when this is over, we can find our feet again.”
According to Mr Milidi, most businesses in the town are cross border-related, hence the closure of the border post to non-essential traffic is affecting them.
Beitbridge’s economy is anchored mostly by the informal sector and the few businesses that are formal are service industries such as freight forwarders, retail, warehousing and logistics, and Government workers.
“Some of the businesses rely on the transit population and in their absence, many people’s incomes are affected.
“At the same time we urge the few businesses that remain operational to observe the standard precautionary and prevention measures to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic to Beitbridge and countrywide,” said Mr Milidi.
He said the Government could be losing at least ZWL$10 million in potential revenue from the SMEs who usually frequent the Beitbridge Port of Entry on any normal day.
Those operating who include the 300 vegetable vendors, he said, were each getting daily takings of R300 whilst those with flea markets netted R3 000.
The cross border taxi operators, he said, were contributing at least R150 000 to the economy daily through transportation of day-trippers between Zimbabwe and South Africa daily.
“It is also pleasing to note that the Government has assured us that no one will starve and they are presently working on augmenting household incomes to vulnerable groups through the cash payouts.
“To some extent, this initiative will assist those affected by the lockdown and were relying on daily takings from their projects for their general upkeep,” said Mr Milidi.
The few businesses that remain operational for essential services in Beitbridge, he said, net an estimated R2, 5 million to the national economy daily. The Chronicle