Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The impending opening of borders by Zimbabwe and South Africa will help boost business for most Small to Medium Enterprises who rely on cross border-related activities.
Zimbabwe and South Africa share Beitbridge Border Post which processes at least 15 000 travellers, 3000 light vehicles, 120 buses, and 1000 commercial trucks every day.
The two countries are in the midst of opening up the economies and easing lockdown restrictions which took effect in March to contain the rapid spread of Covid-19.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that Pretoria will be opening its ports of entry to international travel on October 1.
He said only three airports including OR Tambo, Cape Town, and King Shaka in KZN will be open to foreign travellers.
These, he said, will be open for business and tourism-related trips with travellers having to produce Covid-19 negative certificates as part of the entry requirements.
It is understood that further guidelines will be availed in due course.
In addition, he said one land border which remained open since the start of the lockdown in March will be open to international travel.
Beitbridge has been open to commercial traffic, human remains repatriations, and the official repatriation of South Africans, Malawians, Zambians, and Zimbabweans to their respective countries.
President Ramaphosa said South African missions will soon open for visa application processing and that travellers from selected countries with high-risk Covid-19 infections will be restricted from travel.
Sadc’s economic powerhouse has more than 600 000 positive cases and 15 000 deaths, while Zimbabwe has over 7000 cases and less than 300 deaths.
Zimbabweans from across the economic sectors, said yesterday that the move by Pretoria was long overdue.
The International Cross-Border Traders Association’s (ICTA) President Mr Denis Juru said the latest development would enhance cross border trade within Sadc.
“As the ICTA, we wrote a letter to the President on Monday the 14th of September 2020 asking for the reopening of the South African borders to the public the least being opening for traders. We deeply appreciate the positive response by the President that the borders will be opened on 1 October 2020 for the crossing of Cross Border Traders and business purpose trips,” he said.
He said ICTA had more than 1000 traders who cross into South Africa to buy or/and sell products using Beitbridge Border Post on daily basis.
Mr Juru said his organisation would also assist all loading zones in South Africa with the screening and sanitisation of travellers.
He said it was also mandatory for all cross-border traders travelling to South Africa to download Covid-19 Alert App on Google Store or Apple Store.
“ICTA will not allow any travelling member to enter South Africa without the above-mentioned app.
“We take this opportunity to advise the Zimbabwean government to follow suit as the operations of the border needs to be uniform on both sides of the border,” said Mr Juru.
Beitbridge Business Association Chairman, Mr Nkululeko Milidi said the move will boost the capacity of most SMEs who are currently relying on middlemen to import their products thereby unreasonably pushing up the prices of goods.
“We advise our local businesses to stock up well and price reasonably to yield economic growth because if they continue to take advantage of the consumer, surely people will flock to Musina for food security and other essential services. The opening of the border will help reduce crimes such as robberies and muggings at the riverfront where people are smuggling goods,” he said.
The Coach and Bus Operators Association’s (CBOA) chief executive officer, Mr Alex Kautsiro said their members were eager to return on the road under the confines of the Covid-19 regulations.
“This will be a great move for our businesses and at the same time let me emphasise that we will comply with all the set operational guidelines to ensure the safety of both our employees and travellers,” he said.