WATCH | Smugglers, patrols & desperation — shambles at SA’s R37m Covid border fence

27 April 2020 - 07:00 By Emile Bosch

Smuggling is rife along the country's border with Zimbabwe, with Zimbabweans regularly crossing into SA to purchase foodstuffs. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said it requires US$130m to prevent millions of Zimbabweans from starving.

Despite a 40km fence being erected along the border at a cost of R37m in April, Zimbabwean smugglers still regularly cross the border.

Typically smuggled items include cigarettes and other contraband. Local farmers have said this has largely been replaced by food.

Food smugglers cross the border numerous times daily, in exchange for money.  

"[In Zimbabwe] 2 kgs of sugar costs R50. 12.5 kgs of mealie meal costs R150. Before corona there were no food smugglers because we crossed at Beitbridge,” an anonymous poacher turned food smuggler told TimesLIVE.

SA is currently in a nationwide lockdown, implemented in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All of the country's borders are closed.

Before the lockdown, Zimbabweans could cross the Beitbridge border post to purchase food in Musina. Farm staff have said their families back in Zimbabwe have to pay up to R500 for a 12.5kg bag of mealie meal.

Despite police, military and private security patrols, numerous holes are being found in the fence on a nightly basis.

Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia De Lille will be inspecting the fence on April 28 2020.


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