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Travellers' nightmare at Beitbridge border

by Staff reporter
19 Dec 2023 at 06:15hrs | Views
CONGESTION at Beitbridge Border Post has started building up as travellers, mostly Zimbabweans based in South Africa are now returning home for the Christmas holiday.

For the past three days, long winding queues have been the order of the day on both the Zimbabwean and South African sides of the border, with travellers spending between three and seven hours in the queue awaiting to be cleared.

In interviews, travellers blamed the newly established South Africa's Border Management Authority (BMA) for causing delays resulting in unnecessary congestion.

On the Zimbabwean side, travellers spend less than 30 minutes at the border post.

During this time of the year, the volume of traffic at the border increases.

The South African government recently launched the BMA as a way of streamlining operations.

"We are spending longer than necessary at the South African side where they have opened fewer immigration counters compared to Zimbabwe which has three dedicated terminals for commercial, buses, light vehicles and pedestrian traffic," said a cross-border driver who only identified himself as Mncedisi.

"Our appeal is for the authorities in that country to harmonise operations with Zimbabwe so that the delays are minimal."

A Zambian commercial truck driver, Mr John Mwale, said the situation at the border is frustrating, especially for South Africa-bound truck drivers.

He said they are having challenges navigating into South Africa even though they would have been cleared before getting to the Zimbabwe border.

Long queues of commercial trucks have become a common sight on the road leading to the border post.

"I spent five hours in a long queue just after the foot and mouth checkpoint on the South African side of the border with my two children. The situation was so bad and we were not allowed by authorities to use ablution facilities," said a woman who preferred anonymity.

"Surprisingly, on the Zimbabwean side, we spent less than five minutes at our Zimbabwean border."

With Christmas fast approaching, the situation is likely to worsen as more travellers are expected to use the border post.

South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) spokesperson Mr Sipithi Sibeko said: "We are in control and witnessing an increased volume of traffic during this time of the year is normal."

BMA spokesperson, Commissioner Stephen van Zeel said they had opened more workstations at the border to clear non-commercial traffic which was rising.

"We are ready to handle the traffic through the Beitbridge border post where we have started to witness an increase in non-commercial traffic. We have deployed more immigration officers from less busy stations and opened more workstations and clearing booths within the border," he said.

"In addition to that, we have created more traffic lanes to ensure that vehicles do not clog the border and the major highway linking the border and Musina town."

The Zimbabwean regional immigration officer in charge of the southern region, Mr Joshua Chibundu, said they had deployed enough manpower at the border.

He said operations will be continually reviewed depending on the situation on the ground.

Mr Chibundu said on Thursday they cleared a total of 19 000 travellers at the port of entry.

"During the off peak period, we clear around 12 000 people daily and the number doubles up during the peak period such as the Christmas holiday," he said.

ZimBorders Consortium chief executive officer, Mr François Diedrechsen, said they are now handling a huge volumes of non-commercial vehicles.

"As ZimBorders and other government agencies operating the border post, we are doing an incredible job by ensuring a smooth flow of traffic," he said.

Mr Diedrechsen urged transporters and travellers to comply with border authorities.

Beitbridge is one of the busiest border posts in Africa, which not only connects Zimbabwe and South Africa but also serves as the transit point for the majority of north-south trade in Southern Africa.

President Mnangagwa last year in August commissioned some of the completed works under the US$300 million Beitbridge Border Post modernisation and upgrade project.

The massive project is one of the key economic and developmental initiatives being spearheaded by the Second Republic across the country.

The modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post is in line with Vision 2030, which seeks to attain an upper middle-income economy. The upgrading and modernisation of Beitbridge Border Post will also speed up the implementation of the One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) concept between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) said it has invested in information and communication technology (ICT) facilities and deployed additional staff to the Beitbridge Border Post.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) show that between December 1 and 15, over 15 000 light vehicles and nearly 16 000 commercial trucks passed through Beitbridge.

Source - The Chronicle