THE ban on some foreign import goods in Zimbabwe has resulted in the increase of incidents of smuggling by informal traders and private people along the southern border across the Limpopo River.
Beitbridge Border Post between South Africa and Zimbabwe is one of the busiest ports of entries in the Africa which operates on a 24-hour basis.
Travellers who use the border into Zimbabwe are now required to only carry a limited number of some goods.
Some identified goods such as blankets and cooking oil are banned for import in Zimbabwe and people who want to take them into the country should apply for a special permit.
Zimbabweans are now using undesignated roads along the border where there is no fence and where army patrols are weak to smuggle the goods and farmers have now had to upgrade their security.
They are operating daily using open trucks which are loaded to the limit.
Across the river, the smugglers find some Zimbabwean smugglers, waiting to receive the goods.
The smugglers say they sometimes fall prey to criminals known as ‘maguma-guma’ who rob them of their goods.
Some travellers say the new trade laws in Zimbabwe have left them with no choice but to use illegal means.
Farm workers along the river say they too just cross the river when they want to visit home in Zimbabwe as there are no patrols. The fence is also badly damaged and in some areas the entire fence is down.
The workers say in the event they find soldiers patrolling, they simply pay them a bribe.
Residents of villages along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border say they feel unsafe and have accused the police of failing to stop the smuggling of goods.
Senior Policy and Dialogue specialist at Gender and Trade network, Lebogang Pheko says the ban on the import of some goods may lead to loss of revenue for informal traders.
“The value of goods that is going to Zimbabwe from SA is about R700 million (US$50m) a year. Those are the ones which include formal imports and exports.
“So this has certainly created a little bit of chaos because there is a blanket ban on all import goods from South Africa…which may result in a loss of revenue.”
Pheko says the increase in the smuggling of goods between South Africa and Zimbabwe is not good for the economies of the two countries.
Meanwhile, the South African Police Services (SAPS) say it is not their responsibility to patrol the border. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was not immediately available for comment.