The closure of borders posed a huge catastrophe to the livelihoods of women Informal Cross Border Traders ( ICBTs) who have been surviving through buying or selling goods in neighbouring countries and abroad.
“We appeal to authorities to provide us with special permits that will enable us to cross the border and order or sell our wares so that we can be able to put food on the table for our families or to at least open the borders for us to get to do our usual businesses,” Portia Sithole a woman ICBT lamented to The Vendors Voice.
The closing of some borders has caused a huge increase in smuggling activities through undesignated points. Informal traders who survive on trading across the borders have been using undesignated crossing points to earn a living. For example between Zimbabwe and South Africa, traders have to cross the crocodile infested Limpopo River endangering their lives.
“Crossing through the bush to Musina is not safe especially for us women, there is a lot of robbery happening there, narrated Portia Sithole,” a Beitbridge cross border trader. “Some women are raped, tortured and their goods are taken away from them,” continued Sithole.
Sithole also added that an armed forces helicopter will be hovering around in the bushes, instigating fear on the traders, as well as mounted forces on horses, who chase the women carrying goods leading to loss of the wares and loss of capital.
Another ICBT, Siphiwe Dlula from Beitbridge said, “We have tried resorting to ordering our goods online, however when the goods come, some will have been lost and there is no way to claim them, and the choice of goods will have changed, what you order is not what you get”. Dlula also added that runners and truck drivers are not reliable as they sometimes disappear without delivering.
“We call upon the government to urgently open up borders in order for us to be able to stock wares. Our lives have been compromised as we use the bush to cross to South Africa, if borders are opened, it will give us leverage as our safety will be guaranteed, said Tafulani Mpofu an ICBT from Beitbridge.
Informal cross-border trade serves a significant income source, particularly for women. In border towns such as Beitbridge, informal cross border traders constitute the bulk of the traffic that passes through the borders and the closing of the borders has caused huge challenges for this group of traders. In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, almost all countries suspended international flights, introduced 14-day quarantines, and closed land borders since 2020, placing Informal Cross border trading activities to an abrupt halt.