By Staff Reporter
Beitbridge, July 02, 2016 – CALM returned to Beitbridge on Friday night after government deployed the Zimbabwe National Army and police reinforcements from outside the border town to quell protests which had forced the closure of Southern Africa’s busiest border post.
Many Zimbabweans rely on sourcing for cheap products in South Africa, the country’s biggest trading partner to source for food products and clothing for resale back home.
But a ban on the importation of certain good ignited protests which saw the border shut down on Friday for security reasons while a ZIMRA warehouse went up in smoke as a result of the disturbances.
Protesters barricaded the road from the border post to the Masvingo turn-off on the main road to Harare and destroyed traffic lights.
Sign posts and other infrastructure in the town were also destroyed.
“Police are on the ground. The army as well is on the ground to ensure that peace prevails,” state media reported late Friday.
Protesters also massed on the South African side of the border early on Friday.
Traders are up in arms over the Zimbabwe government’s recent decision to limit imports from South Africa in what it says is a bid to boost the local economy.
Those wanting to bring in even basic goods like peanut butter, jam, body lotion and shoe polish have to get a permit to do so. They’re being threatened with a hefty fine if they arrive at the border with any of these goods but without a permit.
The decision by the government to ban the importation of certain goods into the country has been affecting commercial cargo while Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) had given reprieve to cross border traders following resistance by the public to comply with the statutory instrument.
In a bid to protect the local manufacturing sector and curb the externalisation of the United States dollar, the government recently gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 that bars the importation of certain products into the country.
Forwarding and Shipping Association of Zimbabwe board member Mr Osbert Shumba says some goods truck transporting the banned products remain stuck on the South Africa side as importers are expected to pay surety of US$2 000 to ZIMRA before clearance.
According to the new law, importers should have licenses to bring the affected goods into the country.
While individuals by Thursday the 30th of June were seen crossing the border with some of the banned products, there has been a public outcry by Beitbridge residents over government’s decision as their livelihoods are anchored on cross border trading.
People in Beitbridge depended on Messinah Town to shop for groceries, furniture and hardware products as they are cheaper and readily available in South Africa.
Efforts to implement the new statutory instrument by ZIMRA has been met with resistance by traders who argued that the authority was implementing the measures before the announced date.