By Thupeyo Muleya
Thousands of Zimbabweans and South Africans left the country yesterday via Beitbridge Border Post in a last-minute rush to beat the suspension of general travel which came into effect at midnight.
Most of the travellers had arrived at the border post by 8PM on Sunday evening but were not able 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.
On Saturday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga announced the return to lockdown Level Four that suspends non-essential cross-border travel with effect from today.
Under the new order, only holders of foreign countries’ work permits, students or residents 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 a total of 5 715 people left the country between 6AM and 2PM yesterday.
There was congestion at Beitbridge Border Post yesterday as travellers rushed to cross before land borders closed
During that period 99 border jumpers were intercepted after finding their way into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.
A border official who preferred anonymity said they were clearing all travellers with valid travel documents.
“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 well marshalled by the ZRP traffic police, Beitbridge municipal police and a private security company.
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 service 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, Mr Vusumuzi Ndlovu said although the clearance of travellers was relatively fast, the unavailability of space within 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, but things started moving as early as 3PM.
“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.
Mr Hopewell Ncube said he travelled to Beitbridge early on Sunday but failed to cross because of the congestion. The Chronicle.