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Bulawayo feels SA strike pinch

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RETAILERS in Bulawayo, who rely on imported products from South Africa, are slowly feeling the effects of a crippling truck drivers’ strike in Africa’s largest economy as business activity has slowed down, an industrialist has said.

Report by Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland chapter president Cletus Moyo on Tuesday said although it was still early to assess the full extent  of the impact, the effects were inevitable as Zimbabwe imports the bulk of raw materials for  most manufacturing companies from neighbouring South Africa.

“The strike in South Africa will certainly affect us in the importation of raw materials or finished products, but currently the full impact has not been really felt.  For now I cannot speak for members on an ad hoc basis.  However, that would be clear when we have our meeting next week,” Moyo said.

A snap survey carried by NewsDay showed that stocks of some imported perishables were running low in some retail outlets.

Shop owners said most of their orders were still locked up in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with some saying they were scared to send their trucks to South Africa.

“From the reports coming from South Africa, it is too dicey to send in our trucks to collect orders. We have no choice, but to wait for the situation to calm down. But that is affecting our business operations as stocks are now low,” a supervisor at a major retail store said.

A report by the Economic Planning and Investment Promotion ministry in July disclosed that Zimbabwe  trade deficit with South Africa increased seven-fold over the past four years to hit R13,6 billion (about $2 billion) last year.

Last year, the country exported goods worth R1,3 billion to South Africa, while importing R15,1 billion worth of goods from the southern neighbour. Zimbabwe in 2007 imported R1,9 billion worth of goods from South Africa. Shortages of fuel, particularly petrol, were also surfacing, but they have not affected the pump price.

A supervisor at a filling station within the central business district, who declined to be named, said the fuel retailer had been experiencing supply problems for a week and he attributed  it to the strike.

“Our stocks are fast dwindling due to the strike (in South Africa). By next week our tanks could be dry.”

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