On foot to ferry petrol for profit as Zimbabwe border feels the pinch

20 January 2019 - 00:00 By MPUMZI ZUZILE


It takes Halima Simba about an hour by foot to make the round trip from Zimbabwe to Musina in Limpopo to buy petrol.
Her customers are the many taxis stranded without fuel on the other side of the border, victims of a spike in the petrol price in the beleaguered country.
"I do not own a car. I use this as a way of making extra money. There is no petrol on the other side so the best way is to come and buy petrol here," said Simba.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced late last Saturday evening that the petrol price would increase from $1.43/l (about R20) to $3.31/l, and diesel from $1.38/l to $3.11/l. This was the first time Mnangagwa had addressed the nation on the growing crisis over persistent fuel shortages and Zimbabwe's worsening economic environment.
The announcement sparked a bloody protest, with at least five people killed and scores injured in clashes.
Musina is also feeling the economic crunch as traffic on the main artery to and from Zimbabwe dwindles.
On Wednesday, local clothing stores, restaurants and fast-food outlets all warned customers they were shutting shop early due to low customer numbers. Even Greyhound suspended its bus services from Monday until Thursday afternoon.
Greyhound divisional manager Peter Ferreira said: "We have eight buses between Zimbabwe and SA. We had to suspend it. We only reopened the route on Thursday."
A police officer said only four buses had come from the Zimbabwe side since Tuesday. "We had no minibus taxis, and less than 10% of the normal traffic."
Shops and street vendors at the Beitbridge border between Zimbabwe and SA have temporarily packed up.
The sluggish business at petrol stations came mostly from a few Zimbabweans filling up 25l drums. It has become a common sight to see people carting about jerry cans of petrol.
At the border post, police, customs and home affairs officials sat in the shade as cars came through in dribs and drabs.
A customs official who asked not to be named said: "On a normal day, there are long queues of people crossing into SA and some to Zimbabwe. The past three days were just a breeze."
Shameful Kutadzaushe, from Gokwe in Zimbabwe, walked for nearly 30 minutes to purchase 25l of petrol for his taxi.
"I need to ensure my taxi continues working so I can have money to feed my family. I cannot even drive my car into SA as it's low on fuel," he said.
Nomsa Nkomo said she paid her taxi $15 instead of the usual $7 to visit a friend in Musina.
A taxi owner and driver in Musina, Vusumuzi Mkandla, hasn't ferried people in nearly three days. "On a normal day each taxi in the Musina area does about four to six trips to the bridge," he said.
Musina shop owner Hussain Miah closed his shop and helped run his brother's shop as the slowdown hit.
"I was forced to send my employees home early as I couldn't keep paying them for doing nothing. We depend on the Zimbabweans," said Miah.
A Spar manager, who asked not to be named, said the store had reduced its order of perishables and meat as it only has about 30% of its normal daily sales.
On Saturday, internet services in Zimbabwe remained at least partially down after a period of state-imposed total blackouts.
Mnangagwa on Wednesday lamented the violence in his country, saying it was "not the Zimbabwean way".

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