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Cross-border traders push for border re-opening

ENDORS and cross border traders in Bulawayo who are facing starvation have appealed to the Zimbabwean and South African governments to partially re-open Beitbridge Border Post to enable them to resume trade after waiting in vain for State-funded cushioning allowances.

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) director Michael Ndiweni yesterday said food shortages and price hikes were weighing heavily on vendors, most of whom have been forced to remain indoors due to lockdown restrictions.

“We are calling on the two governments to partially open the border in light of what we saw last week when a number of traders were rounded up by the South African military when they were crossing at some illegal exit points to Mussina,” Ndiweni said.

“Some were saying they were crossing to buy medication, some were sick and said they preferred to walk from Beitbridge to buy goods.”

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is currently paralysed due to the ongoing strike by nurses and doctors over poor working conditions, lack of protective wear. The impoverished health workers are also demanding salaries in United States dollars.

Ndiweni said crossing through bushes increased chances of women getting raped as they were the ones mostly in informal trading.

“This is a risk because those crossing will end up getting robbed and more importantly in light of COVID-19-controlled entries, this causes a serious threat in terms of the spread of the virus,” he said.

“In our view, the two governments should set special shops that are monitored for people to buy goods and go back to Zimbabwe while being monitored.”

“Something urgent has to be done, the issue of opening borders partially will be very important,” Ndiweni said.

The government in March pledged a $600 million cash transfer facility for one million underprivileged families and vendors, but has not fulfilled the pledge.

Only 200 000 households have reportedly received $200 each from the facility, which BVTA recently said was not enough to buy a 10kg bag of roller meal.

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