By Vusumuzi Dube
Zimbabwe has re-opened its side of the Beitbridge Border Post but to only allow Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa to return home.
Zimbabweans with valid South African permanent residence and other permits such as work and student permits are also now allowed to cross into South Africa and back home.
Zimbabweans in South Africa popularly known as injiva are now allowed back home without any restrictions or special clearance in a move that would see some locals who had been stuck in the neighbouring country flocking back home.
There was confusion last Thursday when some members of the public travelled to the border with the hope of accessing services after South Africa announced that it was opening to the general public 18 land borders including Beitbridge and three airports, as the neighbouring country moved to level one of its Covid-19 restrictions.
However, Zimbabwe and Botswana, which share some of the borders with South Africa, announced that they were not yet re-opening their borders.
Nonetheless, in the latest development, with effect from Friday, Zimbabwe eased the restrictions allowing specified general people to cross the border.
According to a memorandum addressed to immigration staff at the border post, Zimra and police, assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Nqobile Ncube, Zimbabwe started allowing specific members of the public to cross the border on Friday.
“With the repealing of the lockdown restrictions in South Africa, the implication is that the Zimbabwean nationals no longer need DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) clearance to leave South Africa.
This should be read in tandem with the current Covid-19 restrictions which provide for re-entry for Zimbabwean nationals returning home. All Zimbabwean nationals returning home shall be allowed passage subject to relevant Covid-19 compliances as administered by port health.
Permanent residence permit holders are also to be granted entry as guided by refereed regulation,” reads part of the memo.
The land borders, however, remain closed for “general travellers” like traders. Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe told the Sunday News yesterday that the country was still monitoring the Covid-19 pandemic trends before making a decision on the re-opening of the land border to the general public.
He said while consultations were ongoing their decision would not be influenced by the neighbouring countries’ decision to re-open their land borders.
“Discussions are indeed taking place within Government on the issue of land borders, as there are a lot of considerations which we have to consider before we make a decision to re-open the borders inclusive of the trends of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We have to especially look at how the re-opening of the borders will affect our response to the pandemic and further what systems we can put in place so that the re-opening won’t result in a sudden spike in cases,” said Minister Kazembe.
He said all the necessary stakeholders would be consulted before a decision is made on the land borders, emphasising that once a decision is made the Ministry will then table it to the National Covid-19 taskforce.
“All that we can do as a Ministry is forward our recommendations to the national task force, who in turn will recommend to Cabinet, who will further deliberate on the matter and make a final resolution.
But obviously the borders will not be closed forever, it is now about seeing what is best for the nation juxtaposing this with the trends in the pandemic nationally,” he said.
Commenting on the same issue, the chief coordinator, National Response to Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva said while there was appreciation of pressure by the general public to relax the national lockdown measures inclusive of the opening of the land borders there was a need to consider the Government’s public health measures to curbing the Covid-19 pandemic. The Sunday News