Published: 2016 August 20 12:40:36 (13734 Views)

BEITBRIDGE - Mass cross-border protests which had been slated for today have not taken place, ZimNet can exclusively reveal. 
Local and regional small traders and transporters had last week announced that they will shut down all of the country’s borders from Monday next week onwards, unless the government lifts its controversial imports ban. 
It is feared the ban might lead to debilitating shortages of food and other basic goods.
But according to our sources, the planned protests did not take place today. “I am currently at the Beitbridge Border Post and it’s business as usual,” an impeccable source revealed this afternoon, adding" “...however, I am seeing a number of riot police here.”
Ironically, President Mugabe who is the primary target of the mass protests was addressing a Heroes Day Gala in Harare today — without any signs of remorse for presiding over a dying economy — which is the number one reason for the wave of protests which have hit the country since last month - under the auspices of #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka/Ses’jikile social movements. 
“We say no to such actions, there is no country globally that allows dumping and does not protect its industry,” said Mugabe, adding that people must understand the motive behind SI64.
The reason for the flop of the border demonstrations had not yet been established at the time of publication. However, the State has since the beginning of mass protests threatened to brutalise demonstrators as seen in the recent #NoToBondNotes march in Harare which ended with police beating and teargassing the protesters. 
In Beitbridge — where the mother of all protests began, some protesters suspected to have caused violence at the border during the demonstrations are in still incarcerated pending trial.  
The State sponsored brutality against demonstrators by security details might thus have played a significant role in scaring away would-be protestors. 
The organisers of the planned shutdown of the country’s borders last week claimed that they had already advised all relevant parties, including operators of regional bus termini such as Zimbabwe’s Roadport, Park Station in Johannesburg and those in Lusaka of their looming action.
They also claimed that important stakeholders such as the International Cross Border Traders Association had all come out in support of the traders and transporters’ mooted industrial action.
“From August 8, 2016 we will close down all commercial activities at all of Zimbabwe’s borders. Please stay home until further notice. We demand that the government of Zimbabwe abolishes Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 which bans imports into Zimbabwe.
“We also want to send a message to the other countries in the region such as Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia that there is not going to be any business during this shutdown.
“All neighbouring countries are aware of this stay-away. As a result, shops and customs clearance operations will be closed in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania starting from Monday August 8, 2016 until further notice,” one of the co-ordinators of the event, Joseph Chanakira, told the Press last week. 
Efforts to get a comment from Chanakira — to check what might have stalled the planned protests were futile. 
The government imposed a ban on the importation of a number of basic consumer goods in June, saying this was an endeavour to not only reduce imports in the wake of worsening cash shortages, but also to stimulate local industry.
But the decision backfired spectacularly when deadly riots paralysed operations at Beitbridge Border Post early in July, with protesters burning a Zimra warehouse in the process.
Under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, the government banned the importation of coffee creamers, Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jam, mahewu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza bases, yoghurts, flavoured milk, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese, among other products.
South Africa, through its Department of Trade and Industry has formally expressed grave concern over the imports ban and has been seeking a meeting with Bimha to iron out problems.
This comes as it was confirmed last week that the South African government was seething over the imports ban, which Pretoria says is unfair and transgresses Sadc’s regional trade protocols, the same argument that the small traders are using in their appeal to the regional bloc.

- ZimNet

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