Reports reaching The Sunday Standard indicate that Francistowners are already feeling the pinch of the political standoff in nearby Zimbabwe as complaints have now arisen that there is drastic food shortage in the city.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that there has been a marked increase in the demand for fuel and foodstuffs, and some local retailers and wholesalers have found themselves with empty shelves after being cleaned out by Zimbabwean traders. However, locals have started raising complaints and calling for restrictive measures as they are now starting to feel the pinch of food shortages.
Francistowners have, in the past, accused Zimbabweans of fuelling the rapid increases in food prices because they buy in bulk, and now the Zimbabweans are being accused of fuelling food shortages.
Zimbabweans travel to Francistown on a daily basis to buy commodities like food, clothes and household equipment, like radios and home theater systems from Chinese shops. Wholesalers and retailers, like Shoprite, Score and Choppies, have over the years made a roaring trade as Zimbabweans thronged the city from nearby Bulawayo to buy foodstuffs like sugar, mealie-meal, cooking oil, and flour.
However, the complaints are starting to become more frantic as it has emerged that local retailers and wholesalers are unable to keep up with the increased demand for foodstuffs that is said to have been caused by the political standoff in the country.
One local wholesaler told The Sunday Standard that they are grateful for the business that they get from the Zimbabweans. He, however, revealed that, of late, they have been unable to keep up with the increased demands for mealie-meal, flour, and cooking oil and most of the time they are left with very little stock to satisfy the local market.
The demand for bread has also increased remarkably and a local baker also admitted that he has lately been unable to meet the demands of his local customers because of the increased demand from Zimbabweans.
“You must understand that we are doing great business here. Some of my local customers are complaining, but they forget that they buy on credit while Zimbabweans buy cash, and sometimes at increased prices,” he said.
The Zimbabwean traders have also made a roaring trade by buying fuel from local filling stations and selling it to individuals, companies and tourist operators back home. Filling stations, like the ones next to the Ramokgwebana border and the ones in Francistown, are known to be making a roaring trade from Zimbabwean petrol exporters. Of late, motorists in Francistown have started complaining about the absence of unleaded fuel in local filling stations, laying the blame on the Zimbabwean petrol traders.
While most of the Zimbabweans have continuously claimed that they are buying the foodstuffs for personal consumption, it has come to the attention of The Sunday Standard that most of them are making a killing by selling the goods at a profit back home. Botswana and Zimbabwe have a bilateral trade agreement that allows free movement of goods between the two countries.
On a daily basis, thousands of Zimbabweans descend on the city of Francistown from the Bulawayo-Francistown commuter train, lifts and the buses that ply the Francistown-Bulawayo route to buy all kinds of foodstuffs and electrical goods from retailers, wholesalers and Chinese shops. The Francistown-Bulawayo train and the buses that ply the route are, on a daily basis, filled beyond capacity as they return home overloaded with goods being exported to Zimbabwe. Local unlicensed transport operators, especially retired old men who own vans and trucks, also make a killing through transporting Zimbabweans and their goods to the border on a daily basis.