Re-Open Borders to sustain livelihoods: Informal traders

Informal cross border traders’ associations are pleading with the government to reopen borders in order to reduce smuggling of goods through illegal crossing points which pose a threat to the safety of women.

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) Director Michael Ndiweni said specialized agreements between governments will ensure a reduction in smuggling cases, control illegal entry and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are appealing to the Zimbabwean and the South African governments to urgently look into the issue as illegal border crossing poses a danger of spreading the virus and exposes women to rape, robbery and harassment,” said Ndiweni.

In an interview, Percy Mcijo, Director for Street Wise Informal Traders Association highlighted the need for sector-specific measures that will revive the economy and shape the informal sector.

“It is a matter of trying to reconnect the country with the rest of the global economic drivers. In so doing the question remains on what has been done to prevent infection at the borders. It should not be opened up without proper measures in place as that will be an invitation for disaster,” added Mcijo.

Women informal cross border traders who spoke to Infocus News said they are exposed to harm and danger at illegal crossing points in their quest to provide for their families.

“As women we opt to be border jumpers because it is the only way we can fend for our families. In the process, we risk being raped and infected with sexually transmitted diseases and there is nothing we can do as we have families to look after,” said Doreen Selimani.

Another cross-border trader echoed similar sentiments, stating that reopening of borders will ensure better livelihoods for women cross border traders.

“We acknowledge that borders were closed as a way of controlling the spread of the virus however, the effects have not been pleasant as we survive on going to South Africa to buy goods for resell in Zimbabwe.”

Since the introduction of the COVID-19 induced lockdowns, the informal sector has been heavily affected by the limited hours of operation and travel restrictions.

While most informal traders are beginning to rebuild their businesses as business operating times have been adjusted, cross borders traders are still at standstill as most are unable to restock.

Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)