THIRSTY South Africans living along the border with Zimbabwe are reportedly jumping the boundary in search of beer.
Some enterprising Zimbabweans have capitalised on the demand and are making regular illegal forays into South Africa with supplies of what has become liquid gold in the neighbouring country.
The officer commanding Beitbridge Police District Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said he heard unofficial reports that South African nationals had cut the newly erected fence to skip into Zimbabwe in search of beer.
“I have heard that, but our cycle patrol team has said cases of border jumping were on the decline following stepped up operations by the South African defence forces and a yet unexplained sudden flooding of the Limpopo River,” Nyongo said.
According to some villagers from the Dite area, east of Beitbridge town, scores of South African nationals from Musina and outlying areas were frequenting illegal crossing points to buy beer. Pretoria banned the sale of alcohol during its national lockdown put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“The South African nationals have been coming here to buy beer and some people have been enjoying good business from those thirsty people,” a villager from Dite said.
“Some of them are bringing mealie-meal or cooking oil to trade as barter for beer. The price of beer has gone up in response to the demand,” another villager from the area said.
“Some people from Beitbridge town have also been coming with beer they trade as barter with groceries.
“We are also having some Zimbabweans who jump the border into South Africa to buy groceries in bulk. Numbers and volumes of groceries coming through here increased soon after the lockdown.”
Security officials deployed to stop border jumping were allegedly cashing in on the business and paying no attention to the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“They charge varying amounts for goods being smuggled and at times R15 per carton of any grocery.”
The Beer Association of South Africa, as well as other alcohol associations, have been making submissions to President Cyril Ramaphosa to allow the sale of alcohol during the lockdown, saying closure of their businesses would create unemployment. In reaction to alcohol sales ban, beer businesses and depots have been looted.
Other South Africans have also resorted to home brews sold out of pure desperation.
“Liquor stores, pubs, clubs and taverns have all been closed. On top of that horrific news, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday April 9, announced an extension of a further two weeks,” an official of one of the associations said.
“It was at that point that all hell broke loose. South Africans took to home brewing their own alcohol and it was a ‘challenge accepted’ moment.