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Bothered by borders

Wame Mpepa

Kasane/Kazungula hawkers call for borders to reopen

It’s been seven months since Botswana closed her borders in an attempt to control the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

With no sign that the borders will be opened anytime soon as new infections continue to rise, small business owners in Kazungula and Kasane who relied heavily on the influx of foreigners in the country are at their wits-end.

No one is buying their fat cakes and soup and many have been ordered to stop trading at the Kazungula Ferry borderpost as a Covid-19 safety measure.

Voice Reporter, Kabelo Dipholo spoke to a few hawkers in Kazungula this week.

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Wame Mpepa (51)

My rent is two months due. I’m stressed because I have no idea where I’m going to get the money to pay the Landlord.

There’s no point in coming here to sell because we’re not making any money.

For as long as the border remains closed, a lot of SMMEs are going to collapse, some have actually stopped selling altogether.

I used to sell food to truck drivers by the Kazungula border, but after the first lockdown, we were told to leave.

Now I’m here selling airtime and cigarettes and I barely make enough money to buy stock and feed my children.

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Basimane Banogi (47)

Since the closure of borders, I’ve been suffering. The situation is so bad that I ended up using my small savings to put food on the table.

Remember the government only supplied us with one ration and then we had to fend for ourselves for five more months.

Basimane Banogi

When they finally allowed us to trade, I had already depleted my savings and could not buy stock.

I applied for a P10 000 loan from CEDA but they offered me a measly P3, 700.

I rejected the money because it was way below the money I needed to restart my business.

I have never considered myself a destitute in my life because, although unemployed, I woke up every day to sell at the border and came back home in the evening just like any other employee.

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However, today I have to make the shameful admission that I need to apply for government’s food baskets for the destitute.

Nomsa Kubee (38)

I used to work in a lodge and I lost my job. I then opened my own stall and my main customers were truck drivers and Zambian and Zimbabweans who flocked into Botswana.

The closure of borders has killed my small business. The worst day for me was when I made just P10.

Nomsa Kubee

How do I feed my kids and pay rent if I’m making P10 a day? I later applied for a loan at CEDA through their Lethabile initiative.

It’s P1, 500 payable in six months, but I’m already struggling. The government has to open borders otherwise our kids are going to starve and we will fail to honour our contractual obligation with CEDA.

Daphney Brooks (39)

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I had a prime spot right in front of Choppies and I made a lot of money. But due to Covid-19 restrictions, I had to relocate.

Daphney Brooks

Nothing has been the same ever since. There’s absolutely no money. I’m aware that I can get a small loan through CEDA, but I’m reluctant to go that route when I can clearly see that everyone is struggling.

How am I going to repay the loan? I’ve actually given up on this year. I can’t wait to see the back of 2020.

Hopefully, next year borders will open and hawkers will finally manage to put food on the table.

Efa Monamati (38)

I used to move from truck to truck selling fruits, sweets, airtime and refreshments but all that has since gone.

I spend the whole day under this shade selling airtime and sweets, but I’m not doing this to make any profit.

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Efa Monamati

I’ve to keep doing it for me to be able to buy relish for my kids. The little money I make is never enough to buy stock that’d make the business profitable.

I relied on the Zambians and Zimbabweans who used to come to Kazungula and Kasane.

As I speak to you, I was recently evicted from my rented house. I’ve moved into a cheaper house, but I’m already defaulting.

I haven’t made any money in the last seven months.

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