Victoria Falls informal traders want temporary border passes

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
INFORMAL cross-border traders in Victoria Falls have appealed to Government to introduce temporary border passes to allow them easy passage into Zambia for business.

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe shares the border with Livingstone in Zambia.

Residents in the resort town and their counterparts in Livingstone used to interact on a daily basis before Covid-19 as they have a similar cultural background.

While Zambian traders popularly known as omzanga used to enjoy easy passage to Victoria Falls using temporary one-day border passes, the situation was different on the Zimbabwean side where one needs a passport to cross the border.

The informal cross-border traders who specialise in selling curios, African attire cloths and other goods said it is not viable to have a passport stamped on a daily basis considering the cost of acquiring one.

They were speaking during a training workshop organised by Youth Invest, a trust working to promote the youth’s sustainable social and economic development in communities.

Besides border passes, they want the Victoria Falls City Council to review its by-laws which they said favour foreigners at the expense of locals.

They said the recent reopening of borders by Government renewed hope that they will resume their businesses and wish the challenges could be addressed urgently.

“It is our appeal to Government to bring back border passes for locals here so that we are able to cross daily to sell or buy from Zambia. Many informal traders cannot afford to apply for passports and those who have the documents find it not worth it to have it stamped on daily as this wastes space.

“Authorities at the Victoria Falls border are also too strict compared to other ports of entry hence we implore Government to consider that Victoria Falls is a unique city with tourism products such as curios. People are delayed at the border as they are referred to different offices that deal with such products and we appeal to Government to set up a one-stop desk at the border.

While we applaud Government for reopening borders, we feel the cost of obtaining a PCR test is too high for us to afford,” said an informal trader, Mr Royal Ndlovu.

Chronicle understands that the Department of Immigration used to issue temporary border passes to residents of border towns but the facility was reportedly suspended a few years ago.

Mr Ndlovu said the local authority regulates Zambian hawkers who sell door-to-door in Victoria Falls yet locals are forced to sell from designated markets.

The informal traders have formed the Zambezi Informal Cross Border Traders Association (ZICBTA) with the help of Youth Invest to lobby authorities as a group.

The association’s vice-chair Mrs Grace Shoko said they had delegated some members to engage the Department of Immigration and other authorities.

“Our goods comprise curios, African attire cloths, and others and we would love to have access to the Zambian market hence we want to address these challenges.

Sometimes local prices are too high which means we have to buy from across the border and in this regard, we appeal to Government to also help address the whole value chain in our local production so that we are able to source goods locally and export which will bring foreign currency to the country,” said Mrs Shoko.

A youth Miss Laizah Sibanda said she had ventured into online shopping because of challenges at the border.

“We used to face a lot of challenges at the border before lockdown hence we implore Government to help us address them. I resorted to online shopping to avoid daily direct contact with the border but this sometimes has its own problems,” she said.

The two-day training workshop ended in Victoria Falls yesterday and is part of a project being implemented by Youth Invest with funding from African Union (AU) in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit of Germany.

AU, through its Strategy for a Better Integrated Border Governance (AUBGS) is pushing for use of borders as vectors to promote peace, security and stability, and to improve and accelerate integration through effective governance of borders while facilitating easy movement of people, goods, services and capital among AU member states.

Youth Invest director Ms Nomqhele Siziba said the association seeks to capacitate informal cross-border traders in Victoria Falls in line with AU Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as making traders benefit from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa’s simplified trade regime.

“We are capacitating the cross-border traders with funding from AU and GIZ who are giving funding directly to governments. We are focusing on Victoria Falls and we have helped them form an association as we try and capacitate informal cross–border traders realise their dreams and be able to lobby authorities,” she said.

The project is aimed at creating a level playing field between Victoria Falls and Livingstone women and youth aged between 18 and 35.

Youth Invest has been conducting stakeholder and sensitisation meetings in Victoria Falls and Livingstone to strengthen cooperation in fostering cross-border co-operation and works with various ministries and government departments and has sought partnerships with similar groupings countrywide.

Mr Michael Mdladla who was facilitating the training encouraged the informal traders to lobby as a group as they advocate for their business rights. — @ncubeleon

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