Beitbridge – Zimbabwe’s army was Friday deployed in the restive border town of Beitbridge where protesters angry about a new ban on imports set on fire a warehouse belonging to the state revenue authority, state radio reported.
Three people had been arrested by early Friday evening, according to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) report.
ZBC said the situation on the Zimbabwe side of the border had been “really volatile” earlier in the day.
Protesters “barricaded the road from the border post to the Masvingo turn-off (on the main road to Harare) and destroyed traffic lights. Sign posts and other infrastructure in the town were also destroyed,” said ZBC.
“Police are on the ground. The army as well is on the ground to ensure that peace prevails,” it added.
Protesters also massed on the South African side of the border early on Friday.
Traders are up in arms over the Zimbabwe government’s recent decision to limit imports from South Africa in what it says is a bid to boost the local economy.
Those wanting to bring in even basic goods like peanut butter, jam, body lotion and shoe polish have to get a permit to do so. They’re being threatened with a hefty fine if they arrive at the border with any of these goods but without a permit.
A ZIMRA warehouse in Beitbridge has been burnt as protests over the ban on imports continue in the border town and across the South African border.
Three people have since been arrested, with the police and army now in full force in the town.
Shops were closed for the better part of today as residents protested against the ban on imports.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and the Department of Immigration are advising members of the public that contrary to some reports circulating in the social media, Beitbridge Border Post has not been closed.
In a statement to ZBC News, ZIMRA and the Immigration Department said the border post is operational in spite of the minor disturbances in residential areas of Beitbridge town that have been caused by the implementation of Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016.
The authority is implementing SI 64 of 2016 as gazetted and members of the public are encouraged to comply with the requirements.
ZIMRA also said if there are any grievances with the provisions of SI 64 of 2016, the issues should be raised through relevant structures to engage government for appropriate consideration.
ZIMRA and the Department of Immigration is in the meantime apologising to law abiding and genuine travellers and traders who may have been inconvenienced by the disturbances.
Reports from the border town say the Zimbabwe Republic Police is handling the disturbances to maintain law and order as well as protecting staff, genuine travellers and traders.