The impending resumption of cross-border passenger traffic by Zimbabwe and South Africa through Beitbridge may allow traders to resume their business in person, rather than using intermediaries to buy and ship goods.
Cargo traffic was never interrupted by the decision of the two countries to bar cross-border passenger traffic, so there was little economic damage, but a lot of small enterprises that sent runners to South Africa to buy and return with ordered goods will probably welcome the easing, although they have been allowed to order goods in South Africa and combine orders in single trucks.
Zimbabwe and South Africa share Beitbridge Border Post, which before the lockdown rules processed at least 15 000 travellers, 3 000 light vehicles and 120 buses every day, along with the 1 000 commercial trucks that were not affected.
Both Zimbabwe and South Africa are opening international airports from October, but for passenger traffic, the only South African border post will be Beitbridge.
However, human traffic will resume under conditions.
South Africa and Zimbabwe have aligned their first condition to being a Covid-19 negative certificates with the test result in the last 72 hours, as part of entry requirements.
Further guidelines will be availed in due course.
The International Cross-Border Traders Association’s (ICTA) president Mr Denis Juru said the re-opening of the border post for human traffic would enhance cross border trade within Sadc.
ICTA wrote a letter to President Ramaphosa September 14 pleading for the reopening of the South African borders to the public, especially for traders.
The organisation has over 1 000 traders who cross into South Africa to buy and/or sell products using Beitbridge Border Post daily.
It will support all loading zones in South Africa with the screening and sanitising of travellers.
Beitbridge Business Association chairman, Mr Nkululeko Milidi, said the move will boost the capacity of most SMEs who are presently relying on middlemen to import products, resulting in high prices.
The Coach and Bus Operators Association’s chief executive officer, Mr Alex Kautsiro, said their members were eager to get back to the road, but under strict Covid-19 regulations.
Border closures and affected several businesses in Limpopo Province in South Africa, especially those in Musina, as they largely rely customers from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Tanzania, Mozambique and others from East Africa that drop off and buy various goods, and go back home.
Over 18 car dealers on the South African side of the border that sell second hand vehicles from Europe and Asia, had been affected.
Limpopo Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mr Albert Jeleni recently said: “Our observations are that most small businesses have not been able to withstand the pressure. Some have closed shop resulting in massive job cuts.
“We are seeing an emerging pattern of new informal business of those who lost their source of livelihoods as people try to adapt to the new order.”
Agriculture, hospitality, tourism and retail sectors were negatively affected by the lockdown.
Mr Clemence Mabidi of Wright-cars, which is situated across the border, said most car dealers have relocated to Botswana where business was better due to relaxed regulations on imported cars. – Herald