ZIMBABWE – Co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi wants to engage his South African counterpart, Mrs Naledi Pandor, to avert a potentially volatile situation being caused by chaos at Beitbridge border post.
Both human and vehicular movement increased last week after an influx of Zimbabweans based in South Africa and other holiday makers from countries in the north trooped back to that country as the festive season ends.
The slow movement of traffic has been blamed on South Africa’s Department of Immigration, which has taken a business as usual approach in the face of an increase in human and vehicular traffic. In an interview yesterday, Co-Home Affairs Minister Mohadi described the South Africans’ work ethics as “unneighbourly”, adding that there was a need for an urgent solution to the problem.
Accessing South Africa has become a nightmare for most travellers and long winding queues for both human and vehicular traffic have become commonplace. Some motorists have reportedly spent between two to three days in queues.
Queues for cars, mainly South African registered ones, were stretching for over 10 kilometres outside the border post on both roads leading to Harare and Bulawayo.
These had already been cleared by Zimbabwe officials and were waiting for departure to South Africa. The Department of Immigration had to seek assistance from the traffic police section to control the queues as restless travellers were demanding answers to the chaos.
An average of 9 000 people cross the border per day and the figure rises to 25 000 during peak times, with an estimated 2 000 private cars and 1 500 trucks also passing the same border, the busiest in Southern Africa.
“We are going to engage the new South African Home Affairs Minister on Monday (today) over the chaotic situation at Beitbridge Border Post.
“The deplorable situation there is purely an administrative issue which I believe is not South Africa’s government policy. “We have had situations where some pedestrians have been teargassed or watered by police on that country’s border and told to go back to Zimbabwe.
“What is also worrying is that they are inconveniencing other travellers who are passing South Africa in transit and have planes to catch.
“You will note that these cars have been cleared in Zimbabwe in a few hours and are only waiting to gain access to South Africa. Furthermore, most of them are South African passport holders and we don’t know why they are treating their fellow countrymen this way.
“At the moment these cars have virtually closed one lane of both highways leading to Harare and Bulawayo.
“Such a scenario will cause unnecessary accidents as other motorists have to share the other lane. “As Zimbabwe, we can’t let the situation go unaddressed, we hope a solution will be arrived at soon,” he said.
The Minister said Zimbabwean border authorities have tried on several occasions to engage the South Africans but nothing had materialised.
He said at the start of the festive season the border authorities from both countries had agreed to harmonise operations but the South Africans reneged on the midway.
“You will note that some criminals and wheeler dealers have taken advantage of the situation, where they are duping motorists and the travelling public under the guise they will facilitate speedy movement. “Such criminals should be warned that the police are out in full force to get them,” said Mohadi.
Beitbridge border handles traffic heading to most of the countries north of the Limpopo and South African authorities at times think everyone crossing to that country must be Zimbabwean.