By Thupeyo Muleya
The Covid-19-induced curfews in South Africa and Zimbabwe have been blamed for major bottlenecks affecting the movement of travellers at Beitbridge Border Post.
South Africa has a curfew which runs from 9PM to 6AM, while Zimbabwe’s starts at 6PM and ends at 6AM.
As a result, some travellers have been spending up to 24 hours at the border before crossing cross into South Africa.
The number of travellers drastically increased after Government announced a new host of measures under lockdown level 4 to minimise new infections.
Under the new measures, only Zimbabweans who are residents or have work or student permits in foreign countries are allowed to depart.
In terms of arrivals, any Zimbabwean wishing to return home is free to do so; the same as foreign nationals who are legally resident in the country.
As a result of the new measures, hundreds of people have in the last two days thronged Beitbridge Border Post to beat the deadline.
“The difference in the curfews has created problems for us. We now have to stop clearing people at 6PM and send those we can to South Africa. When they get to the South African side, our counterparts process those that they can and stop at 9PM. This then creates congestion as traffic builds up on both sides of the border,” said a Zimbabwean border official.
He said it was important for the two governments to harmonise the curfews or to temporarily suspend restrictions at the border until the end of the festive peak period in a week.
“It’s cumbersome to operate at one border with a different cut off time and hence we need our principals in South Africa and Zimbabwe to review the curfews for border traffic only,” added the official.
A traveller, Mr Limukani Ngwenya, said he had been affected by the curfew twice while at the Zimbabwean border.
He said he joined the long queue for motorists on the Zimbabwean side some 6km away from the border.
“Some of my friends have already crossed and I have failed to cross for two days because of curfew issues and the huge volumes of traffic here,” he said.
Ms Nomagugu Moyo said she had spent a day in the queue and urged authorities to relook at the operating hours at the border.
“This is too much my brother, something must be done to improve the flow of traffic, especially for motorists,” she said.
Another motorist, Mr Fakazi Ndlovu, said although he had been cleared on the Zimbabwean border, he had failed to get to the South African border for 24 hours due to the curfew.
“There is no parking space on both borders and the limited operating hours at the border are putting pressure on most of us,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Many Zimbabweans work in South Africa but the exact number is yet to be verified.
At least 300 000 are covered under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP). The Chronicle