By REX MPHISA
BEITBRIDGE Border Post was yesterday temporarily closed by the International Cross-Border Traders Association (ICBTA) and its affiliates pressing to have the Zimbabwean side of the border post opened.
After about three hours of picketing, the demonstrators dispersed although it is not clear whether police intervened.
Limpopo province police spokesman Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe did not respond to questions.
Zimbabwe has not opened its border to the public even after South Africa did so on February 15 when it eased lockdown restrictions.
Only returning residents, diplomats and permit holders are allowed through the border, which throughout the lockdown was open to international haulage vehicles.
ICBTA affiliates, who are mostly minibus and taxi operators, used their vehicles to barricade the border, effectively paralysing operations.
“They want the Zimbabwean government to open its side of the border to give them economic activity. Minibuses which ply the Musina-Johannesburg route rely mostly on Zimbabweans,” an agent with a cross-border bus company said.
“The minibus and taxi operators believe that by not opening its border with South Africa, Harare was killing their source of livelihood.”
On average, more than 13 000 people use the Beitbridge Border Post daily and these travellers use public transport in South Africa.
The continued closure was driving them out of business, they claimed.
Zimbabwe did not reopen her borders for fear of exposing her citizens to the new COVID-19 variant from South Africa and Britain.
ICBTA claimed top Zimbabwean government officials were sending trucks to buy goods in South Africa for resale in Zimbabwe.
Recently, three trucks that were intercepted inside the Beitbridge Border Post were known to belong to a Zimbabwean parliamentarian.
They also said cross-border traders were being killed by robbers after jumping the border into South Africa for shopping.
Several people have been robbed in the bushes around the South African border post, where robbers waylay people evading the formal entry points.
“We are also questioning why airports are not closed. Is the law only for the poor? Let them also close the airport,” a statement by the demonstrators said.
Thousands of people living close to the border are risking their lives to cross the flooded Limpopo River to do shopping for children going back to school after a year’s break.