By Nqobile Tshili
Cross-border traders have attributed rising cases of smuggling through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River to the closure of the Beitbridge Border Post to non-essential travel.
The traders have since lobbied Government to reopen the border post for members in the sector under strict regulations.
Informal traders who depend on buying goods from South Africa and Botswana to sell locally have been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen countries closing borders to contain the spread of the virus.
Informal traders believe that reopening borders will reduce smuggling cases and the spread of the virus between countries.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) executive director Mr Michael Ndiweni said cases of border jumping can be reduced if informal sector players are allowed to trade across the region.
“As an association, we are aware of the threat posed by Covid-19 pandemic that necessitated the two governments to put restrictions and close borders in an effort to contain its spread. However, we are pained by what is happening at illegal entry and exit points despite the noble effort to contain the spread of the ravaging virus between the two countries.
“We witnessed a video of scores of informal traders having been rounded by South African security forces at an illegal point of exit making painful testimonies about their plight,” said Mr Ndiweni.
He appealed to the Zimbabwe and South African governments to put in place measures to ensure that informal traders can cross the border under Covid-19 regulations for trading purposes.
Mr Ndiweni said working in a liaison with the two governments, special shops can be set up to serve informal traders to mitigate against the spread of the virus. He proposed that the neighbouring countries can come up with strict travel timeframes for traders.
“We are appealing to the Zimbabwean and South African governments to urgently look into this issue as the plight of people crossing at illegal points poses a danger of spreading the virus and may even expose women to rape, robbery and harassment among other viles that happen at these illegal points of entry or exit.
“BVTA also proposes the controlled movement of people between the two countries. Immigration authorities can join hands in ensuring that there is smooth and safe crossing, whilst informal cross border traders observe the WHO recommended measures to combat the spread of the virus,” he said. The Chronicle