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Ban on imported goods from SA irks Zimbabweans

By Zoë Mahopo | 2016-07-04 13:01:47.0

Truck driver Jairos Mhembe had just received his salary but could not buy groceries to take back home to Zimbabwe to his two wives and nine children out of fear that the goods would be seized by customs officials.

Mhembe, 58, is one of many cross-border truck drivers who have been trapped at the Beitbridge border post between SAand Zimbabwe after a ban on basic imports sparked outrage.

Reports reflected chaotic scenes from Beitbridge town in Zimbabwe as angry protesters blocked roads and torched a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority warehouse over the weekend. According to the SA Revenue Service, traders on the South African side also staged a five-hour blockade bringing traffic to a complete halt.

Calm was restored after the Department of Home Affairs negotiated with the traders and informed them that the Department of Trade and Industry would take up the matter with Zimbabwean authorities.

Yesterday, Home Affairs spokesman  Thabo  Mokgola said the situation remained calm, adding that government would issue another statement should there be any further developments. Mhembe said many people were waiting for an announcement from the Zimbabwean government today before attempting to cross over with their trucks loaded with all sorts of goods.

 

Mhembe said people were angry that they were being barred from bringing in basic commodities such as canned food, bottled water, cosmetics and furniture.

"It will affect us Zimbabweans a lot. I'm driving a South African truck and I get paid in rands. If they tell me not to buy food from South Africa after getting my salary, where will I get food for my family? Right now I've got my salary in my pocket but I didn't buy anything," Mhembe said.

He said people preferred to buy in SA because things are much cheaper while others made a living from stocking goods and selling them back home in Zimbabwe.

"People have decided to calm down because they are waiting for the announcement on Monday [today]. If they get a bad report then the demonstrations will carry on again."

Tatenda Munjo, 37, who was sleeping in his truck, said they were badly affected. Munjo has been transporting various goods including building materials and food items between the two countries for the past four years.

"We don't have to lie and say that everything is going well. This thing is starving our families. We're very angry over this," Munjo said.

The Zimbabwean government implemented the regulations as a way of promoting the import of SA goods. Munjo said he did not see how this move would benefit them since most of the items people bought in SA were not available in Zimbabwe.

"The only local goods they have in Zimbabwe is the maize in the field. Which company is manufacturing fridges in Zimbabwe? Let the people get their stuff where they have been getting it ... as long as its not illegal," said Munjo.

mahopoz@sowetan.co.za

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