POLICE in Gweru on Tuesday arrested 32 cross border traders returning from South Africa, the Coalition of Traders Association (COTA) has revealed.
The arrest follows the weekend unrest at Beitbridge Border Post as frustrated Zimbabweans protested against tough new import regulations as well as corruption at Zimra
Introduced under Statutory Instrument Number 64 of 2016, the new regulations made virtually impossible the importation of food items, building material, furniture, toiletries and cooking oil among other things.
The border post was temporarily shut down at the weekend as more than 3,000 traders trying to enter Zimbabwe reacted angrily to Zimra authorities seizing their goods under the new regulations.
Sources say many of the traders took advantage of the chaos and forced entry into the country without clearing their goods
COTA officials called a press conference at Roadport bus terminus in Harare Tuesday, where they confirmed the Gweru arrests
They said confiscation of their goods by ZIMRA was unconstitutional, and demanded an immediate stop to road blocks as well as the release of the arrested traders.
The group’s Secretary General, Stan Manyenga, condemned the way police in Gweru were handling the issue, claiming that “anyone suspected of coming from South Africa is their target”.
“It is quite inhuman, cruel and inconsiderate that a lot of our members lost their goods at various entry points around the country’s borders,” he said.
“We estimate the loss of goods through this ad-hoc exercise was about $571 000 as of yesterday (Monday) alone.”
Manyenga called on the government to repeal Statutory Instrument Number 64 of 2016, saying it was “unconstitutional and a total violation of the people’s fundamental economic rights”.
He demanded that government compensates “all those traders whose goods were confiscated by ZIMRA officials”.
The group also called on traders to resist the seizure of their goods.
“Resist the move by (President Robert) Mugabe’s cronies who want to steal from innocent people trying to make a living where a country leader has failed to improve the pathetic conditions being experienced by masses,” National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) Chairman Stan Zvorwadza told reporters at Road-port.