Maputo — The current outburst of anti-foreigner violence in South Africa is causing losses of about a million US dollars a day to Mozambican transport companies, according to the Deputy Chairperson of the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA), Castigo Nhenane.
Addressing a Maputo press conference on Wednesday, Nhenane said this estimate only covered trucks carrying merchandise. If passenger transport was also included, the losses could rise to an average of three million dollars a day.
The latest round of anti-foreigner riots began on Sunday, and the targets for the rioters include foreign-owned trucks. Nhenane said that to date seven foreign trucks (one of them Mozambican) have been set on fire in South Africa.
"Preliminary data indicated that about 300 trucks belonging to Mozambican transport operators used to enter South Africa every day to transport a variety of goods", he said. "But since the disturbances began, they have stopped going to South Africa. That has paralysed about 2,000 Mozambican workers, with all the negative impacts this has on their families".
The CTA condemned the cruelty and extremism of the South African rioters, particularly since the rioting comes at a time when Africa is moving towards a Continental Free Trade Area, which should bring benefits to all it members.
"The CTA believes that these xenophobic events are damaging peace, concord, stability and the harmonious development of our countries", said Nhenane. "They are affecting families, companies and society as a whole".
He added that the CTA is urging both the South African and the Mozambican governments to intervene to end the rioting, which stains the dream of a united Africa, and contradicts all the efforts made by those who fought against apartheid.
If the current situation continues for much longer, warned Nhenane, it might lead to the closure of companies and a rise in the level of unemployment.
Some Mozambicans attempted to retaliate. On Wednesday morning, in response to the violence in South Africa, a group of people tried to prevent South African vehicles from using the Maputo-South Africa motorway.
However, the Mozambican police brought the situation swiftly under control. According to the spokesperson for the Maputo provincial police command, Fernando Manhica, the protestors were a group of garbage collectors, working at the Malhampswene rubbish dump in the municipality of Matola, who threw up barricades to interrupt traffic along the motorway.
Manhica said the police persuaded the protestors to remove the barricades. Nonetheless, the police decided to stay there, just in case they changed their minds.
"We shall continue in position, and give guarantees to anyone wanting to enter or leave Matola that they can circulate freely on the roads", he said.
Reports from South Africa indicate that at least five people have died in the anti-foreigner riots, and dozens of shops supposedly owned by foreigners were attacked in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The police have made almost 200 arrests.