A ban on importing many foreign goods imposed recently by the Zimbabwe government has resulted in an increase in the number of incidents of smuggling by informal traders and private individuals along the South Africa-Zimbabwe border along the Limpopo River.
The Beitbridge Border Post between South Africa and Zimbabwe is one of the busiest ports of entry which operates round the clocks but travellers who use the border crossing to enter Zimbabwe are now permitted to only carry a limited number of some goods.
Zimbabwe introduced the ban last month and some Zimbabweans and South Africans protested against the move.
Some identified goods such as blankets and cooking oil are banned for import by Zimbabwe and people who want to take them into the country need a special permit.
Zimbabweans are now using undesignated roads along the border where there is no fence and where army patrols are weak to smuggle the goods and farmers have now had to upgrade their security.
The smugglers are operating daily, using open bakkies (pick-up trucks) which are loaded to the limit. Across the river, the smugglers look for Zimbabwean smugglers, waiting to receive the goods.
The smugglers say they sometimes fall prey to criminals known as ‘maguma-guma’ who rob them of their goods.
Some travellers say the new trade laws in Zimbabwe have left them with no choice but to use illegal means to carry banned goods across the border.
Farm workers along the river say they too just cross the river when they want to visit their homes in Zimbabwe as there are no patrols. The fence is also badly damaged and in some areas the entire fence is down.
They say that in the event they find soldiers patrolling, they simply pay them a bribe.
Residents of South African villages along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border say they feel unsafe and have accused the police of failing to stop the smuggling of goods. The ban on thee import of goods also lead to a loss of revenue for informal traders.
A senior policy and dialogue specialist at South Africa’s Gender and Trade network, Lebogang Pheko, says the ban on the import of some goods may lead to loss of revenue for informal traders.
“The value of goods that is going to Zimbabwe from South Africa is about 700 million Rand (about 52 million US dollars) a year. Those are the ones which include formal imports and exports. So this has certainly created a little bit of chaos because there is a blanket ban on all imported goods from South Africa which may result in a loss of revenue.”
Pheko says the increase in the smuggling of goods between South Africa and Zimbabwe is not good for the economies of the two countries.
Meanwhile, the South African Police Services (SAPS) say it is not their responsibility to patrol the border. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was not immediately available for comment.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK