A BID to block the Zimbabwe and South Africa border at Beitbridge by the International Cross-border Traders’ Association (ICTA) yesterday hit a brick wall after their request to protest inside the border area was turned down by security authorities from the two countries.
The group had allegedly planned to bring business to a standstill at Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry for two days (between yesterday and today) in a protest against alleged corruption at the border post.
Security officials from both countries were on high alert for the protesters yesterday. “Their programme was turned down for security reasons and in any case the border post is a protected area. We don’t expect people to do as they please,” said a security source from South Africa.
The Officer Commanding Beitbridge District, Chief Superintendent Francis Phiri, was not available for comment yesterday.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, said police would continue monitoring the situation.
“No incidents have been reported but we are closely monitoring the area for any developments,” he said.
Immigration authorities from both countries described the situation as business as usual.
BICTA president, Mr Denis Juru, said in an interview from his South African base that they had to disperse the few people who had gathered for the protest in Musina town.
“We failed to get clearance from both sides of the border. The police told us that the border post was a protected area where protests and demonstrations are not allowed.
“Our members wanted to protest within the Zimbabwean and South African components of the border. However, you will be informed of our next move in due course,” said Mr Juru.
He said the protest had been necessitated by complaints raised by their members over harassment and corrupt activities by border officials at Beitbridge mainly from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).
He said some of the issues include the scrapping of the Statutory Instrument 64 which removes the importation of listed basic commodities under the Open General Import Licence (OGIL).
Prior to the protests flop yesterday, Mr Juru was circulating a notice advising travellers about the imminent closure of the border if their demands were not met.
“Attention to all travellers and Cross-Border Traders!!! This serves to notify travellers that on the 16th and 17th of April 2018 all borders to and from Zimbabwe shall be disrupted by protests,” he said in the notice.
“The International Cross-Border Traders’ Association advises cross-border traders, truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, clearing agents, travellers and cross-border traders to heed our call.
“Our demands to the Government of Zimbabwe are as follows:(1) Buses and any other travellers using the border must be searched once at the border. No to re-search with intention of getting bribes from drivers by officials. (Not to be searched by Zimra, Border Control and CIDs, one after the other). This process causes corruption.
“(2) Zimra and Border Control at Mwenezi, 129km from Beitbridge Border Post should stop re-searching travellers who have documents showing that they have been searched already at Beitbridge Border Post. (This fuels corruption as well as failure by bus drivers to comply with timetable sheet issued by the government. In some cases leads to accidents as drivers will have to speed so as to compensate time lost to delays).”
ICTA also indicated in the notice that the government of Zimbabwe should allow all its citizens outside Zimbabwe to vote from the countries where they are residing as per 2013 constitution.
The notice also urged travellers to avoid Zimbabwean borders for the duration of the said protest.
In July 2016, thousands of people including Zimbabweans, Ethiopians, Indians and businessmen from South Africa blocked the Beitbridge Border Post in protest at the implementation of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
The protestors, who marched for 12km from Musina town, were barred from entering the South African component of the border by police in that country.