Zimbabwe economic crisis keeps breadwinning grandmother in SA

Date: January 1, 1970
  • SHARE:

Beauty Ndlovu*, 47, from Zimbabwe, longs to lay eyes on her new grandson, born earlier this year. However, as sole breadwinner for five individuals, including two sons in their late 20s and her new grandson, she resigns herself to remaining in South Africa.

Ndlovu forms part of legion of Zimbabwean women who have decided to battle through the borders, with the view that it is better to be apart from family, providing some daily bread, than sitting at home all together with no bread.
In recent weeks, the economic decline in Zimbabwe has accelerated, with last official figures placing inflation at 4,500%, with unofficial estimates putting the figure around 10,000%. Many are depending on relatives outside the border to survive.
After being laid off from her 20-year job as a textile checker at a clothing manufacturer, Ndlovu tried her hand at self-employment, baking bread, making ice-lollies and jam, which she sold to the local community.
Like many Zimbabweans facing an economy with an unemployment rate of about 80%, food and petrol shortages, in 2005 Beauty took the hard decision to leave her children and father, in search of better prospects.
Finally, after about 18 months of piece jobs in Jo’burg, she landed a live-in domestic worker job where she is paid R1, 200 a month. A steady income now enables Beauty to send regular food provisions to her family in Zimbabwe.
The constant flow of goods across the border has created new services to satisfy the needs of those supplying families back in Zimbabwe. Enterprising individuals, normally called Malayitshas, specialise in transporting goods to Zimbabwe, for a fee.
“After saving for a few months, I recently sent big shopping home (sugar, flour, maize meal, cooking oil and soap amongst others) which weighed about 160 kilograms. The guy asked me to pay R800, but he accepted R600,” explains Ndlovu.
Just a few weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe introduced “Operation Price Reduction”, commanding all businesses to cut their prices by half. The consequence of this has been a complete buy-out of essential goods.
This resulted in the arrest of several business owners, for allegedly not complying with the price reduction order. Economics commentators within Zimbabwe and beyond have warned the continued programme of price cuts will see manufacturing production come to a halt, rendering the whole value chain empty.
Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean businessperson, publisher of the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa and outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe’s regime, commented that the recent policy in Zimbabwe would culminate in an economic end game for the country – the final death nail in the country’s economic coffin, so to speak.
“The Romans tried to impose price cuts by threatening to chop off heads, but even that was not a sufficient deterrent to prevent people from not dropping prices. Forced price cuts don’t work,” he said.
Thato Ndlovu, Beauty’s sister who lives in Ireland, told of her recent visit to Bulawayo, saying that shops were completely shut in some instances, because there was no stock.
“My sister told me there is no meat in the shops. You can’t even buy a chicken’s hand!” she laughs. This is a sure sign of desperate times in Zimbabwe – a country that once considered the breadbasket of Africa and arguably boasted the best beef in sub-Saharan Africa.
Her sister also noted the fuel situation in Zimbabwe had worsened to the point where there were no longer queues for petrol, because there is none available. Suited and booted businesspeople that formerly cruised the streets in their 4x4s now walk to work, along with those of lesser means.
Beauty Ndlovu worries about the tensions building up in Zimbabwe, predicting that if people take to the streets, violence and death will break out. “The young stock is going to come flooding here in South Africa,” she says. “Only the older people will stay behind.”
Ndlovu clutches the one and only photograph she has of her grandson, saying she would love return home. “If things come up nicely at home, I would definitely go back – of course. We are here because of the economic situation. We don’t want to starve.”
She dreams to save enough money to buy equipment to set up a hair salon in Bulawayo. “As I get older I would love to have my own business, so that I can relax. When you’re sitting at home doing nothing, it’s no good. When you have your own things (a business), you can pay your rent and buy food – you can survive.”
* Not her real name
Nompu Siziba is an economics researcher at SABC in South Africa. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

Comment on Zimbabwe economic crisis keeps breadwinning grandmother in SA

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *