Vendors in Francistown and the better northern part of the country have expressed fear that the continued closure of the Martins Drift border post will translate into loss of hundreds of thousands of pulas.
Martins Drift border post was sealed off by the heavy floods that resulted in the overflowing of the crocodile infested Limpopo River mid last month.
The month long closure of the entry point has left Francistown vendors and the better northern part of the country without an option but to take the long route via Gaborone and cross through Tlokweng border post to access farms in the neighboring country.
The border post remained closed a month after the heavy flooding that sealed off the entry point as the overflowing waters caused damage in the offices. Heavy flooding caused damage in both entry points in either sides of the border.
Vendors, who buy their wares from South African farms for resell at a relatively profitable price, were forced to use alternative border posts.
South Africa’s Home Affairs spokesperson advised cross border traders and travelers alike to use the Kopfontein border post and, or go through Zimbabwe’s Beitbridge border post and access Botswana.
But the development has come at a cost for the local vendors. Some vendors were forced to temporarily stop trading as they cannot afford taking the long route of going to South Africa through Tlokweng border post.
“It has been three weeks without operating my original business. You should be seeing piles and piles of potatoes and oranges here. But the closure of Martins Drift border post has pushed me into concentrating on selling phane worms alone,” lamented Onalethata Nyadza.
Nyadza has been operating her vending business for over a decade. And it is the only trade she knows in her life. For the past three weeks, Nyadza’s loss is estimated at between P15 000 and P20 000 as she makes about PP1 500 per day.
Mmoloki Motota had no choice but to drive long distances. Motota said temporarily closing his vending business could have resulted in him letting down his customers and failed to generate income for his monthly expenditure.
“I had to mix business and compassion because I did not pass the extra costs I am incurring to the customer,” said Motota, adding that the Tlokweng route result in vendors spending double on fuel when compared to using the Martins Drift route.
Another vendor who did not want to be named said the closure of the border post affected her also. She said she chose to use the Parrs Halt Border Post but the road is not in good condition saying it is not tarred.
“I think the government should start channeling its energies towards rehabilitating some of these roads in case of calamities like the overflowing rivers,” said the vendor.