Zimbabwe’s busiest border post, which separates it with neighboring South Africa,, was rocked with violence as Zimbabweans protested against an import ban of basic goods effected by the government recently.
State media reported on Saturday that the violent protests at Beitbridge Border post, which saw a warehouse belonging to the tax agency being burnt, had forced the closure of the border post.
The Zimbabwean government effected the ban on June 17 arguing that the measure was meant to protect the local industry and promote its growth.
The goods that are prohibited from entering into the country include bottled water, furniture, building materials, steel products, cereals, potato crisps and dairy products, most of which come from South Africa.
The state-run Herald newspaper said there were running battles between police and the demonstrators for the better part of Friday as protesters blocked roads with stones and burnt tires along major roads.
The violent protests also disrupted travelling by members of the public across the border.
Most unemployed Zimbabweans eke out a living through buying goods in South Africa for resale in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha was quoted by state radio on Saturday vowing that the import ban will not be reversed as it was meant to promote industrialisation of the local industry whose production capacity has declined to around 30 per cent due to lack of funds for retooling and acquisition of raw materials.
“Zimbabwe cannot be supermarket economy forever. Only goods not produced locally will be imported,” he was quoted as saying.
The minister said he would meet his counterparts from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region in Botswana next week to explain to them about the import ban.
Contacted for comment Saturday, national police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she was still to get an update regarding the situation at the border post.
“I will find out. I don’t have an update at the moment,” she said.
Beitbridge is the busiest border post in southern Africa, facilitating movement of goods and people between South Africa and other countries in SADC