The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Border Communities: The Case of Chipinge - Zimbabwe

This Policy and Practice Brief (PPB) discusses the implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on border communities, principally in relation to border controls by governments and trans-border activities by community members living close to the border in Zimbabwe. This is done with a special focus on the Chipinge district to the south-east of the country, which shares the border with Mozambique. The PPB argues that the border has become the lifeline of the Chipinge communities. Therefore, with the outbreak of COVID-19, efforts to regulate the movement of people across the border have served to weaken their economic and social base, while simultaneously promoting illicit deals along the border as people try to earn a living and interact. The brief further argues that the porous nature of the border has kept such border communities on high alert since people are increasingly using illegal entry points (bush paths), which expose them to further dangers in addition to the pandemic. This is happening amidst the lockdown instituted on 30 March 2020 in Zimbabwe and the closure of the border by the Zimbabwean and Mozambican governments. COVID-19 has increased the suffering of the communities in Chipinge. Among other problems, they are still trying to recover from the damage caused by cyclone Idai and the Mozambican Civil War, and they live in fear of earth tremors in Mozambique that often affect Chipinge. However, for some, it is still business as usual, and they are taking longer to accept the ‘new normal.’ This brief, therefore, discusses the impact of COVID-19 on some of the communities that occupy the vast area of land along the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border, from Rusitu Valley to Mahenye in Chipinge.