THE volume of human and vehicular traffic has drastically increased at Beitbridge Border Post as many Zimbabweans return to their South African bases. Long queues of South Africa-bound vehicles stretching for 2km from the border post along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge highway have become a common feature since Friday evening.
A visit to the border post showed that motorists, especially those with South African registered vehicles, were taking about six hours to complete all the immigration formalities with long, but moving queues being observed on both sides of the border by end of day yesterday.
Border authorities from both South Africa and Zimbabwe attributed the slow movement of vehicles to the unavailability of parking space on the South African side of the border. They have also deployed more manpower to ensure a speedy flow of traffic.
“Most of the motorists have been cleared on the Zimbabwean side of the border and are awaiting instructions to proceed to South Africa where there’s inadequate parking space.
“We started clearing more departures soon after Christmas as many people rushed to finalise the processing of permits before the closure of the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) window on December 31,” said an Immigration officer on the Zimbabwean border.
A total of 245,000 Zimbabweans were eligible to apply for the ZSP permits between October 1 and December 31 last year, with the South African government saying they received 207,802 applications by December 30, while 198,840 appointments had been booked through Visa Facilitation Services Centres.
Investigations by a Chronicle news crew revealed that the ongoing blitz by South Africa’s Home Affairs Department was also slowing down the flow of traffic because of the rigorous vetting on those travelling on that country’s passports.
The Department of Home Affairs started confiscating all passports they suspected to have been illegally acquired from December 26 last year with people being sent back to the Zimbabwean border in some instances while others are being given letters to proceed with their journey, pending further investigations into the acquisition of the passports.
The investigation processes normally take three months before completion. The re-introduction of Ebola screening machines is also delaying the flow of traffic into South Africa as travellers have to queue for the screening processes before joining another queue for immigration and another for customs formalities.
Meanwhile, Butholezwe Nyathi from the Migrant Workers Association of South Africa has urged all those having challenges to approach his office.
“Since yesterday, we’ve been receiving reports that people are getting (5 or so) days stamped on their passports as they return from Zimbabwe. This isn’t what Minister Gigaba said. He said people can travel freely during the festive season and gave 90 days for that,” said Nyathi.
He said it was important for affected people to bring their passports when approaching his office.
“We need evidence urgently thus we encourage the affected to visit the MWA-SA offices in Joburg CBD with passports showing those days so that we can engage the Department.
“Offices open on January 7.”
The border post has become a hive of activity since December 27, last year. About 170,000 travellers pass through Beitbridge Border Post each month, inclusive of both arrivals and departures. The numbers however increase three-fold during peak times. It is understood that at least 190,000 left the country through Beitbridge between December 15 and 25 while a further 130,000 entered the country during the same period.