B Metro Reporter
BEITBRIDGE is far from being a sleepy town, but this time around on New Year’s Eve the party moved from the border town to one of South Africa’s quietest towns, Musina.
Musina otherwise also known as Messina is the northern most town in the Limpopo province of South Africa. It is literally next-door to Beitbridge.
With the most anticipated cash cow period being the festive season and the shut down slated to be New Year’s Eve, many nightclub owners counted their chickens before they hatched.
“Disaster,” said one Fungai Masuka, a local dealer and music promoter referring to the festive season.
This is a town that usually during December experiences spin offs for local businesses from vendors to hotels largely because it is the gateway to the northern parts of Africa.
Be it travelling to Zambia or the Democratic Republic of Congo- Beitbridge is the main route. Therefore, local industries tend to benefit, even the gumagumas (local petty criminals and small time smugglers).
It was not the case in December 2015. Official records say the number of travellers during the festive period dropped by an estimated 42 percent compared to the same period in 2014.
In December 2014 a total of 1, 1 million people are said to have passed through the border but that figure was around 680 000 in December 2015.
There is no prize for guessing- it’s the rand depreciation against the United States dollar. That alone also killed the Beitbridge nightlife.
Nightclubs such as the recently opened Eland could have made decent money had things been different.
“Beer is cheap just 10km from here (in South Africa). So what people do now is go across the border. Even if it means for a decent KFC meal or Nandos. Usually locals just obtain gate passes- no need for passports just to go across,” said Masuka.
On New Year’s Eve locals that preferred to countdown in style went to townships such as Matswale and Nancefield in Musina.
“Taverns that side are simply exciting. They even compete with some of the best places in Bulawayo. Better still these days US$10 is about R160 and that is good money. It buys you more than 16 beers,” said a clearing agent at the border.
The price of beer across the border has become a somewhat market force in Beitbridge- that relationship between supply and demand.
Beitbridge bottle stores are relatively cheaper than those in inner Zimbabwe. A castle lite can sell for 10 rand flat but in cities such as Bulawayo a $1 (about R16) is just fine. The price in Messina is in the range of R8 so a R2 profit does not kill anyone this side of the Limpopo.
Why overprice a product that people can easily access just a few kilometres away- anyway?
The friendly prices are probably the reason why there is an eclectic chain of bottle stores at Ojays complex in Beitbridge- they just out price nightclubs.
But soon the bottle stores might also be out of business. There is a new “mushandira pamwe” wave of drinking.
“We just contribute a few dollars each to buy a goat and then some bring drinks from across the border. At least a six pack per person is fine then we skin the goat, braai it and drink under trees as friends,” said a former nightclub owner.
Seeing people braaing and drinking under baobab trees looks normal to locals although once in a while- they become victims of public drinking.