By Rex Mphisa / Moses Matenga
The situation at Beitbridge Border Post is fast degenerating into a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of South Africa-bound Zimbabweans stuck in the border town since Sunday as the Pretoria government has introduced tough entry requirements for foreigners.
Several desperate Zimbabweans interviewed by NewsDay said they had run out of food and were at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to congestion at the border post.
South African Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed the looming humanitarian crisis at the border post.
He told South African media that the congestion was caused by the swelling number of Zimbabwean seeking to escape the tough lockdown measures introduced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.
“Queues are long because people want to cross to South Africa. There is nothing more we can do. We sent extra people, the army, police, health officials. We won’t be able to send more,” he told News24.com.
“If you don’t have a valid COVID-19 test, go back. If you have a fraudulent test, go back. If you don’t have a passport, go back.”
On Monday, Motsoaledi expressed concern over “corruption on the Zimbabwe side of the Beitbridge Border Post” saying this had made it difficult to deal with the problem of illegal entry into South Africa.
He vowed to block illegal Zimbabwean migrants, saying South African health facilities were strained because of COVID-19 and the country could not afford to treat foreigners.
His Zimbabwean counterpart, Kazembe Kazembe, yesterday claimed the issue at the border post had been resolved.
He, however, refused to comment on allegations of corrupt security forces, saying he would not comment on reports from the media.
“That issue has been resolved. People are now travelling smoothly. It may take a while to clear them, but at least the situation is under control,” Kazembe said.
Beitbridge, despite being the busiest transit point for travellers across the region, does not have public toilets, forcing stranded travellers to use bush toilets, which poses a health risk.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Blessing Vava said: “The situation at the Beitbridge Border Post is a ticking time bomb, a humanitarian crisis that needs urgent solutions from both the Zimbabwe and South African authorities.”
The opposition MDC Alliance yesterday said the situation at the border was evidence for the South African ruling African National Congress (ANC) party to act on the Zimbabwean crisis.
MDC Alliance secretary for international relations Gladys Hlatywayo said the situation at the border post was evidence enough that Zimbabwe was burning.
“In 2020, the ANC and South African government dispatched two delegations to help Zimbabwe sort out its mess that is affecting neighbouring countries especially South Africa. Mnangagwa said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe. These videos tell the real story. We have a governance crisis,” she said.
Former Education minister David Coltart said yesterday of the Beitbridge chaos: “If ever there is COVID-19 super-spreader event, it has to be Beitbridge today. Zimbabweans clamouring to get back to work in South Africa, this is simply disastrous and a shocking indictment against the Mnangagwa