Women in informal cross border business have lamented the continued Covid-19 induced travel restrictions citing that most of them are now exposed to sextortion and bribery as they are forced to use illegal entry points at the border with South Africa to buy goods for restocking.
Sextortion refers to the abuse of power to obtain a sexual benefit or advantage.
The Zimbabwean and South African governments in March closed one of the busiest border posts, Beitbridge, to all human traffic except for returning citizens as part efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 4 221 positive cases and 81 deaths while South African confirmed Covid-19 cases have crossed half a million with 8 539 deaths.
The continued lockdown has forced most women to illegally cross the border to buy goods for resale as the global pandemic has affected their livelihoods.
Women who spoke to CITE noted that they are charged exorbitant charges by truckers who bring in goods into the country.
Borders remain open for cargo.
“As women in cross border business we are facing a lot of challenges especially during this Covid-19 pandemic since the borders are closed, some of us can no longer afford to go to South Africa to order on our own,” said Debra Mukasa.
“Using haulage trucks is very costly, you find that they charge about 30 percent of every item we order, at the end of the day we are now running a loss as our goods end up being very expensive this side hence losing customers.”
Musaka added: “Some of the truck dealers rob us of our hard-earned money, you find that we do the negotiations and all but the minute they collect the money, they switch their cellphone numbers so that we cant trace them.”
Mukasa added that this forces them to illegally cross the border.
“As I have highlighted the challenges in using trucks, some women now leave by the night to cross the border, this is very risky for women at the end of the day because they go through a lot out there in the bush, they will be forced into sextortion and bribery for their business to continue,” she said.
Earlier we reported that the South African Police Services (SAPS) last month arrested 5499 people for smuggling and border jumping along the border with Zimbabwe.
Pretty Mpofu, another cross border trader said their business has become riskier.
“Women have now opted to cross the border to Musina on their own, this has exposed them to sexual assaults, they are being raped and forced to record videos which are posted on social media, we are now being degraded as women in cross border business,” claimed Mpofu.
“Being a woman cross border during this lockdown is very risky, instead of us being afraid of contracting Covid-19 we now fear doing our business because for one to even use trucks there has to be certain favours.”
Meanwhile, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) has called on the two governments to come up with modalities which will ensure that cross border vendors adhere to the Covid-19 protocols as their plight cannot be ignored anymore.