Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau

THE pace of infrastructure development in Beitbridge has been severely hampered under the lockdown period, as Zimbabwe and its neighbours took measures to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic since March this year.

Most suppliers and contractors rely on South African towns in Limpopo province, especially Musina and Makhado for building material where prices are relatively cheaper. Musina is located some 12km from Beitbridge, while Makhado is 100km away.

The closure of borders has seen price increases in major building material supplies locally. For instance, a standard bag of cement costs R60 rand in South Africa and is being sold for nearly R160 by local dealers in Beitbridge. Roofing sheets that go for R100 in the neighbouring country are being bought for R300 on the local market.

Beitbridge town-clerk, Mr Loud Ramakgapola, said: “When the border is operating at full throttle, we get reasonable revenue from buses, which bring those people going to SA for shopping.

“People activity in the town drives the local economy. In addition, the availability of relatively cheaper goods and building materials sourced from South Africa drives construction in the town.”

The town clerk added that vendors and informal traders who rely on goods from South Africa would boost the local authority’s revenue base through increased rates payments.

“There is a general improvement of the living standards of residents of Beitbridge if the border is open,” he said.

Beitbridge town has an estimated population of 70 000 plus 15 000 who are on transit daily, and more than 14 000 properties of which an estimated 6 000 are under construction, according to authorities. The imminent re-opening of the Beitbridge Border Post to passenger traffic on October 1 has raised hopes for many residents whose construction projects had been hit by resources shortages under lockdown protocols.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that international travel will resume next month for business and tourism-related trips, with travellers having to comply with listed Covid-19 management protocols.

The neighbouring country’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma, has said that further travel protocols will be announced in due course by line ministries.