Truck drivers are still allowed to cross borders carrying essential goods across Sadc, exposing communities living along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border to Covid-19, GreatDykeNews24 reports.
An investigation carried out by this publication indicate that several people, mostly regular Harare cross border traders who make a living out of buying and selling goods sourced from South Africa, are forming syndicates with some truck drivers so that their stuff is smuggled into the country.
According to reports, the drivers do not take extra precautions to curb the spread of Covid-19 such as wearing face masks and sanitising.
“Yes we are aware of the deadly virus but there is nothing that we can do.Before the lockdown we used to rely on bus drivers who used to smuggle goods for us to resale in Zimbabwe.
“Now that they are restricted, we are relying on truck drivers who charge us a certain fee depending with our stuff. Honestly speaking we are making a living out of it,” said Annah Peremanzi popularly known as Mbuya vaJose at Tsiga market place in Mbare.
Urgent deals are made with stall owners at Tsiga. Transporters and sales representatives with carts and stalls pile groceries among a variety of basic commodities.
Tsiga has literally become an underground economy where illegal transactions are happening in broad daylight.
Everything happening at the market has some aspect of illegality or is characterised by some form of noncompliant behavior with the country’s lockdown restrictions.
“We rely on these truck drivers, they are our good friends ,we trust them so much hence we don’t fear anything about the virus, we are here to make money only God will protect us,” said Timothy Chasakara from Mbare.
Speaking to GreatDykeNews24, some of the truck drivers said they are doing this to assist fellow countryman during the trying times.
“As truck drivers we realized that this is the only an opportunity to make some money. l have managed to build my own house and bought my wife a Toyota Wish from the money l get through smuggling.
“I have been in this business way back before the lockdown and that’s when we made a lot of money.
“Now that there is lockdown, business is very low hence we are just doing this to help our fellow countrymen and clients such that they don’t die of hunger during the lockdown but otherwise we are not making much money from it.
“Of course we know that Covid is real but there is nothing they can do because they need some food on their tables during the lockdown,” said a truck driver who preferred not to divulged his name.
The driver added that they are not only smuggling goods for the general public but for officials and prominent business people within the country.
“We do this for a number of business people and government officials (names withheld) whereby we smuggle things like minerals and ivory on a weekly basis and we exchange cash without the so called sanitizers and masks,” he added.
“Imagine me driving to Nyamapanda border post alone and l see people in transport blues, what do you expect me to do? People don’t know that sometimes we carry passengers for free after all we are Zimbabweans and we are also Christians, we should love others as we love ourselves,” said Terrence Chapwanya a truck driver.
Reports from Zambia indicated that of the 10 truck drivers who tested positive for COVID-19, six were Zimbabweans.
Under the current lockdown measures, there should not be inter-city transportation except for essential cargo hence some truck drivers are taking advantage of the situation with some picking up passengers along their way and transporting them to other cities without checking if they have exemption letters or not.
According to reports, truck drivers are assisting travelers to evade lockdown travel restrictions by hiding them in trailers and compartments of their vehicles.
The Zimbabwean government recently urged citizens not to hitch hike in cross-border trucks as this posed a health risk to them and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said those hiking in the haulage trucks were risking the lives of many others.
“Those that catch lifts on cross-border trucks are risking us all, and endangering their families,” he said on Twitter.