Local trade, tourism burn over SA riots
The already-struggling trade and tourism sectors in Namibia could face huge economic ramifications if the prevailing rioting, looting and property destruction in South Africa is not quelled soon.
The violent social protests and looting, mostly playing out in the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng provinces, resulted in crowds clashing with the police and the ransacking and burning of shopping malls, with dozens reportedly killed as grievances over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence that country has seen in years.
With South Africa being a major supplier of goods and services to Namibia, economists fear that trade between the countries will not be spared.
Major transport routes such as the N1, N2 and N3 which link South Africa to its neighbours have been disrupted, making it difficult for transport companies to ferry goods.
Media reports suggest that more than 30 trucks were torched across KwaZulu-Natal last weekend, forcing most trucking companies to halt their operations.
FP Du Toit Transport, one of Namibia’s biggest transport firms, said the situation left it with no choice but to park all its trucks.
“All our trucks are currently standing at our depot in Johannesburg and distribution centres and warehouses in Johannesburg and Durban from where we have to collect loads,” the company’s CEO Stephan Terblanche told Namibian Sun yesterday.
He added: “Our trucks have not been making money since this past weekend because they are standing idle. We are doing this for the safety of our trucks and staff members”.
Terblanche said they anticipate a shortage of certain lines of consumer goods within the next two to eight weeks.
Economist Salomo Hei warned that the ongoing riots will adversely impact Namibia’s trade regime, considering that South Africa accounts for 60% of the country’s trade balance.
“About 70% of all our imports come into the country via road. So, once you disrupt road infrastructure and supply chains, Namibia runs the risk of running out of essentials and soft commodities such as food,” he said on the Evening Review show yesterday.
He also warned that the ongoing riots, if not addressed, will impact Namibia’s ability to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I understand Afrox, which produces the oxygen we use here in our hospitals, considered halting their operations. This will certainly spill over into Namibia.”
Spokesperson of the tourism ministry Romeo Muyunda said the violent protests in South are regrettable.
“South Africa is one of Namibia's major source market for tourists. Namibia has received 30 840 tourists from South Africa out of the total arrival of 61 663 from September 2020 to March 2021 under the Tourism Revival Initiative period. This represents 50% of tourist arrivals to Namibia during the period, he said.
“The violence that is happening there is disrupting business services and thus threatening the safety and security of travellers.”
Muyanda said this will affect tourism directly.
“We are watching with keen interest and with hope that the government and relevant authorities in South Africa will find an amicable solution as matter of urgency.”
CEO of the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) Digu //Naobeb told Namibian Sun that they are on alert and monitoring the situation.
“But as the issue currently stands, we believe - as the government stated through its president - that the law enforcement agencies are component and able to control the process. We do not expect any overflow of the protests into the neighboring countries, especially as far as Namibia is concerned.”
He added that Namibia is not foreseeing any closure of borders with South Africa, depending on what President Hage Geingob will announce with regards to Covid-19 regulations in his next address.