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Marina Rungo, 47, has paid her children’s education with what she earns from stalls selling vegetables imported from South Africa, but attacks on foreigners there are threatening her business.
The mother of three knows no other profession than that of merchant. She buys in South Africa and resells at the wholesale market in Zimpeto, just outside Maputo. But today, with the surge of xenophobic violence in South Africa, she fears for her business, her family’s only source of income for over 20 years.
Marina used to travel at least twice a week to South Africa to stock her two stalls.
It was always a risky two-hour, 200-kilometre journey from Maputo to the South African city of Mbombela (also known as Nelspruit), she says, alluding to the frequent robberies on the road linking the two countries, but says ” I could survive.”
“Now, with xenophobia, the situation has worsened. Anybody travelling there these days risk their lives. I have not been there for two weeks,” she tells Lusa.
Zimpeto’s wholesale stalls, famous for almost having always fresh potatoes and onions, are no longer the same. Stock is running out and there are no alternatives, given that the domestic market cannot feed one of the Mozambican capital’s main sources of supply.
“We have no alternative but to stay right here, waiting for it [the wave of attacks] to end. I raised my first child with this stall and he’s already working. My other daughter, the last, is attending University thanks to it,” she adds, hoping that the two governments will “do something quickly.”
“We are all Africans, we have South Africans living and working here. Imagine if we did the same. What would happen in the region?”
Not far away, Amadeu Magaia, 37, counts the potato sacks left at his stall. He, too, is feeling the impact of the violence in South Africa on his small business, the source of his family’s livelihood since 2007.
“Xenophobia has cut supply because the truckers are afraid of going there to get merchandise,” Magaia says. On top of that, he says, produce is no longer fresh, which is putting his customers off.
Amadeu Magaia also sees no alternative, agreeing that the domestic cannot supply Zimpeto on its own.
“We totally depend on what we buy in South Africa,” the young trader says, adding that he hopes the South African government takes urgent action to get the situation under control.
“The solution depends on the South African government. They, as the government, are the parents, and if the children were protesting like that at home, the father would have to exert his authority,” as Magaia puts it.
Those who know the challenge of travelling to the Land of the Rand best are the freight and passenger drivers, who feel the tension on the way to South Africa.
“Now everyone is afraid to travel,” says João Albano, an 18-year-old transporter lined up among dozens of vehicles waiting for passengers at Maputo’s downtown road transport terminal.
“Mozambicans are no longer travelling there. We’ve seen many vehicles, even loaded, returning to Maputo. There is a lot of apprehension,” he says.
One of the arguments used to justify the xenophobic violence in South Africa is the high level of unemployment and poverty there, with groups arguing that foreigners are taking opportunities away from residents.
But 45-year-old Lourenço Matsinhe, who has been driving in South Africa for 23 years, thinks differently.
“Which country has no unemployment?” he asks, adding that “this is no reason to attack brothers.”
“A month ago, a colleague of ours lost his life, shot down in South Africa. The problem is not unemployment, but something wrong with society. And the police do not seem to be interested in solving it,” he says.
At least 12 people have died in the violence since September 1, including one foreigner, whose nationality has not been revealed.
According to the Mozambican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 400 Mozambicans in South Africa have expressed an interest in returning home since the outbreak of xenophobic violence there.Source: Lusa