Retailers call for speedy end to Beitbridge border hold ups

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Harare (New Ziana) –Local retailers said on Wednesday they expect the power challenges in South Africa, which have affected cargo movement at the Beitbridge border post, to be resolved without causing major shortages of imported products or upward price movements.

Rolling power cuts in South Africa are stifling travel across Beitbridge, from both sides, with long queues of cargo, going up to four kilometres long being reported at the border which is a major economic and migrant route for Southern Africa.

But, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Danford Mutashu said because of the power situation, shortages have been limited mainly to non-essential products such as alcoholic beverages that are imported from South Africa.

“We have also noticed that there are fruits and vegetables that are imported from South Africa and those are showing some signs of shortages in certain shops, but so far in terms of prices the market has been offloading that which It has been stocking up so the prices have not moved,” he told New Ziana.

“But the anticipation is that the longer the situation goes unresolved it may lead to wider shortages and if demand remains firm (for imported products), naturally you may see (some) prices going northwards.”

Local retailers are also shielded from the effects of the power situation in South Africa because the majority of goods stocked by most retailers is now locally produced as a result of improved domestic manufacturing capacities.

The power situation in South Africa is so dire that President Cyril Ramaphosa had to ditch the United Nations General Assembly in New York to travel back home to deal with the crisis.

Ramaphosa was scheduled to travel to New York from England where he attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

Mutashu urged border authorities to prioritise clearing essential cargo, to avoid shortages.

“We call upon the authorities to ensure that they expedite the movement of essential goods, such as food stuffs,” he said.

Were it not for the power challenges, long queues of both vehicular and human traffic were now a thing of the past as the remodelled Beitbridge Border Post can process up to 1 000 freight trucks and 200 buses a day, following its multi-million-dollar upgrade.

The US$300 million modernisation project, whose ground-breaking was presided over by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2018 is one of the flagship infrastructure rehabilitation projects implemented by the Second Republic.

The project involved the building of new and separate freight, buses and private vehicle terminals, the installation of latest cargo scanning equipment and feeder roads.
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