Covid-19 border closure effects: Traders resort to smuggling

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) has urged the Zimbabwean and South African governments to open the border to allow informal cross border traders to restock.

This follows reports that traders have resorted to using iillegal entry points to cross into the neighbouring country to buy various goods.

This week a video purpotedly recorded by a South African army official showed a group of locals who had been rounded up by the army in that country after they had used an illegal entry point.

All this is happening at a time when Covid-19 infections are increasing in both countries with South Africa now with the highest infections on continent with over 364000 cases and 5000-plus deaths.

Zimbabwe has recorded 2296 cases and 32 deaths.

In a statement, BVTA said the plight of informal traders who expose themselves to Covid-19 by using illegal entry points cannot be ignored anymore.

“Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association is very disturbed and touched in light of the video circulating on social media of informal cross border traders walking in a single file, giving testimonies on their situation, after being rounded by members of the armed forces in South Africa patrolling the border,” said BVTA.

“The plight of these women and men who cross to South Africa (Musina) to order goods for re-selling cannot be ignored anymore.”

BVTA said they were aware of threats posed by Covid-19 pandemic that necessitated the two Governments to put restrictions in an effort to contain its spread.

“As an association, we very are pained by what is happening at illegal entry and exit points despite the noble effort to contain the spread of the ravaging virus in two countries,” the association said.

“Their situation is dire and some are sick and are reporting that they cannot even access medication in their own country Zimbabwe. 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 vales that happen in these areas.”

The association proposed that “special shops to be designated for informal cross border traders, which will also adhere to Covid-19 protocols ”  

“We also suggest a Special Pass valid for a few hours that can be issued, allowing informal traders to cross over to buy goods and return within stipulated time frames.”

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