Sitting on a makeshift mat next to two cooler boxes, near a roundabout that leads to the new modernised Beitbridge Border Post, Immaculate waits for her next client to buy a soft drink or mineral water to adapt to the ongoing heatwave.
Her customers are mainly travellers who pass through the border town daily.
Beitbridge lies in a semi-arid region and is known for summer days that see the mercury hover around the 27 degree Celsius mark.
However, in the last seven days, temperatures have been soaring to between 30 and 44 degrees Celsius daily.
According to the water vendor, her soft drinks and water sales have increased with increasing temperatures.
“Although the movement of human traffic through the border has changed, sales in terms of soft drinks and mineral water are increasing daily,” said Immaculate.
“I am selling twice the stock now and it is pleasing. I wish this could continue for a while. Truck drivers and the customs clearing agents form the bulk of my clients.
Before the latest heatwave, one would struggle to sell beyond one crate of (24) soft drinks or mineral water, but now I am doing twice or three times depending on the traffic of the day”.
The vendor said she recently shifted base from the western suburbs to the main road leading to the border after realising that there was more lucrative business linked to the transit travellers.
Immaculate’s story is similar to that of the many other vendors who have lined up along the 3km stretch from the border to the main roads leading to Bulawayo and Harare, where commercial trucks form long queues waiting for their turn to be cleared into South Africa.
On average, 1 000 trucks pass through the Beitbridge Border Post daily.
“Business is good this time, I have been selling more than 20 by 500 millilitres units of mineral water daily, compared to the usual 5 or less before the start of the heatwave.
Amahewu and soft drinks sales, have also picked up and I hope this continues for a while so we make more money,” said Ms Sehlisilo Ndlovu.
Beitbridge’s leading purified water supplier, Mr Clayton Mupambiki, said sales had peaked by 50 percent in the past week.
“We usually sell around 1 500litres of water per day, but that has drastically increased,” he said.
“Our sales have been mainly on refills, but now the 500 mls, 1,5 litres and 5 litres units are flying off the counters. In fact, to many, mineral water has been a preserve of the elite, but the sales are peaking at all our outlets across the town due to the heatwave”.
Mr Mupambiki said they were selling a 500mls unit for R5, R10 for a 1,5litre unit and R25 for 5 litres and refilling containers at R1 per litre. Rands are the most common currency used in Beitbridge.
He said they, were hoping that the Government could capacitate most Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to increase production, especially those dealing with the provision of mineral water and related products.
Beitbridge District Medical officer, Dr Lenos Samhere said he was yet to get any adverse reports on patients coming to the Out Patients Department (OPD) or admissions relating to heat-induced illnesses.
The most common heat relate illness include, heatstroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
The local veterinarians are still watching over their constituency, too, with poultry being their most sensitive potential patients.
“We are yet to get any reports on animals succumbing or being affected by the ongoing heatwave,” said Beitbridge District Veterinary Services officer, Dr Rumbi Mwaramba.
Service stations and small retail shops are also capitalising on the heat, finding that ice packs supplement their business quite tidily.
Not to be left out are taxi drivers, who get few rest breaks during the day as people opt for their services rather than contend with the sun’s might.
A meteorologist from the Department of Meteorological Services (MSD), Mr James Ngoma said Beitbridge fell in a region where temperatures rise extremely high both in winter and in summer due to its geographical location.
“This is an area which experiences extreme temperatures during the winter and summer seasons. However, we haven’t recorded any unusual temperatures in the last 30 years,” said Mr Ngoma.
“We have continued to have normal to above normal rainfall in this area.
Currently, there is an ongoing heatwave and our advice to people passing or living in Beitbridge is that they must stay hydrated, drink more fluids and consistently wear sunhats to minimise the adverse effects of the high humidity and moisture”.