Pick n Pay supermarket at the Kamfinsa Shopping Centre in Harare, in Zimbabwe.  Picture: AVUSA
Pick n Pay supermarket at the Kamfinsa Shopping Centre in Harare, in Zimbabwe. Picture: AVUSA

SOUTH African investments in Zimbabwe are once again being threatened by senior politicians, who want the country’s potentially lucrative retail sector to be reserved for locals.

SA and Zimbabwe notched up R19.2bn in trade last year, largely as a result of Zimbabwe’s overreliance on SA’s manufactured goods. Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector is battling challenges that have resulted in capacity utilisation dropping below 44%.

South African retailers are expanding into the rest of Africa, including Zimbabwe, as competition at home intensifies.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa this week accused Pick n Pay of implementing SA’s "export strategy" by stocking its shelves in Zimbabwe with South-African manufactured goods. Pick n Pay entered Zimbabwe through an investment in TM Supermarkets, in which it now controls 49%.

The first Pick n Pay-branded store in the country opened in Harare in July.

"To grow our economy, we should reserve the retail and wholesale sectors for the indigenous population and do this immediately and overnight," Mr Chinamasa said at an indigenisation conference in Harare. "There is no reason we should applaud foreign direct investment into the retail sector.

"The coming into the country of Pick n Pay, if I may just give one example, is not the kind of foreign direct investment that would be in the interest of the country."

TM Supermarkets officials in Harare did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Pick n Pay spokeswoman Tamra Veley said the company had no comment "at this time".

President Robert Mugabe, who is spearheading Zimbabwe’s controversial indigenisation policy, which compels foreign-owned companies to cede 51% shareholding to locals, accused SA of imposing trade restrictions on Zimbabwean goods. "Our quarrel with SA at the moment is that they just want to turn us into a market ," Mr Mugabe told the indigenisation conference.

"So we also want them to be consumers, so that they get our products from here, and not block our products — which is what is happening. Products from us are blocked here and there."