Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
CROSS-BORDER traders from across the country have appealed to the Government to open the borders for them.
The country’s borders are open only to commercial cargo/ freight, diplomats on Government business, returnees and bodies coming for burial in the country.
The cross-border traders, most of them falling under the informal sector, say they have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic since the start of the lockdowns to contain its spread in March last year.
Those that pass through borders say they are being subjected to a number of health screening processes.
Speaking on the sidelines of an ongoing training and capacity building programme that is being rolled out by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Beitbridge, the traders’ representatives said they are willing to do their business under prescribed conditions.
“Since the start of the lockdowns in March last year, most of our members who restock and sale goods outside our borders are failing to operate under normal conditions,” said the project co-ordinator for Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders Association, Mr Eric Chikukwa.
“We have tried to pool resources to import our goods as consolidated cargo but that is not sustainable considering the costs and that some need to sale their products out of the country”.
Mr Chikukwa said they were also having challenges in getting the Covid-19 clearance certificates whose production price averages US$60 which he said was beyond the reach of most of them.
He said it will be prudent for the Government to ensure the testing and issuance of these certificates is done at Government and Council clinics at relatively affordable fees.
Mr Chikukwa said private laboratories were very expensive hence their appeal for these certificates to be produced by Government hospitals and council clinics.
He said some traders who could not afford the testing fees ended up using undesignated crossing points along the border to export or import their stock thereby risking being infected by the pandemic.
Mr Chukukwa said the fact that there was no harmonisation of operations between South African and Zimbabwe border authorities had also presented more challenges to travellers.
South African borders are open for ordinary travellers while Zimbabwean borders remain closed.
This set up, Mr Chikukwa said, was fuelling border jumping and smuggling.
Beitbridge chairman of the cross-border transport operators, Mr Takavingei Mahachi said, “We are counting losses. Our vehicles are parked and we continue paying for permits as commercial transporters, but we are out of business.
“We appeal to the Government to open up space for small-time cross-border transporters. We play a great role in facilitating trade in our own way,” he said.