Zimbabwe: Thousands Throng Border Post to Beat Restrictions

Thousands of Zimbabweans and South Africans left the country yesterday through Beitbridge Border Post in a last-minute rush to beat the suspension of general travel, which went into effect by midnight.

Most of the travellers arrived at the border by 8pm on Sunday but were unable to cross into South Africa where authorities are implementing a curfew between 9pm and 6am.

Only commercial cargo is being cleared on a 24-hour basis.

Over the weekend, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health and Child Care Minister, announced the return to lockdown level 4 that suspends cross border travel.

Under the new order, only holders of foreign countries’ work permits, student or resident permits, diplomats on government business and holders of foreign travel documents, will be allowed to exit.

Returning residents and foreigners with valid Zimbabwean, residents, students or work permits, will be allowed entry.

Statistics from the Department of Immigration show that 5 715 people left Zimbabwe between 6am and 2pm yesterday.

During that period, 99 border jumpers were refused entry after finding their way to South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo.

The number of people who had left the country by 2pm yesterday is almost two-thirds of a cumulative 8 337 which exited between January 1 and January 3.

A border official who preferred anonymity said they were clearing all travellers with valid travel documents including the Covid-19 free certificates.

“We are pushing to clear everyone who has arrived at the border before we can kick in the new regulations in line with the new lockdown protocols.

“More manpower has been added to clear departures so that we avoid having stranded people who may fail to cross the border before midnight,” said the official.

Queues within and outside the border area were being marshalled by ZRP traffic police, Beitbridge Municipality Police and a private security company.

The Port Health Department officials were also seen strictly screening travellers and enforcing related Covid-19 management protocols.

“I arrived at around 9pm on Sunday and joined the queue to get to the border at the first services station. We only managed to get in the border at 4pm today.

“Our hope is that authorities here may review the traffic flow processes to avoid frustrating motorists,” said Mr Noxxy Ncube.

Another traveller, Vusumuzi Ndlovu, said although the clearance of travellers was relatively fast, the unavailability of space within both sides of the border had seen motorists spending more time in the queue.

“We arrived here at around 8pm yesterday (Sunday), but failed to cross because of the curfew in South Africa. Most motorists you are seeing here have completed the border formalities in Zimbabwe, we are only waiting for the South Africans to create space so that we may proceed,” he said.