Immigration tightens screws at Beitbridge border
By Thupeyo Muleya
Security has been tightened at Beitbridge Border Post to prevent wheeler dealers, conmen and illegal immigrants from accessing the port of entry.
Criminals have since Sunday evening, flocked to the port of entry to facilitate the speedy flow of motorists for a fee, taking advantage of the congestion that saw many motorists taking up to three days to leave the border.
The border, which is a transit point for Malawians, Zambians, Angolans, Tanzanians, Congolese and South Africans has since Sunday, been a hive of activity with many Zimbabweans working across the Limpopo, seeking to return to their bases.
Others who depend on cross border trading, wanted to travel to restock before the restriction on general passengers kicked in on Tuesday morning.
Under the current Standard Operations Procedure (SOP), only foreigners, diplomats on Government business, commercial cargo and Zimbabweans who are legal residents or have work or study permits may leave the country.
Zimbabweans returning home and foreigners who are legally resident in the country are granted entry through the land borders and airports subject to production of a Covid-19 clearance certificates with a validity period of two days.
Some wheeler dealers took advantage of the chaos to charge anything between R400 and R600 to facilitate the by-passing of queues by motorists from the main highway into the border.
Another group was facilitating border jumping through the Old Limpopo Bridge (Alfred Beit Bridge).
This prompted action by authorities who tightened screws around the border.
There were very few vehicles at the border yesterday with a team of senior immigration officials screening all travellers for valid travel documents and Covid-19 clearance certificates.
Those without requisite documents were being turned away at the main entry gate to the border.
“We want to control the movement of people through the border by denying access to those who usually cause confusion and fuel congestion within the border,” said one immigration official.
The police on the other hand, were observed strictly marshalling vehicular traffic which was moving into the border.
More traffic lanes had by the end of the day, been opened for local and northbound traffic.
In the last three days, these lanes had been blocked by huge volumes of southbound traffic.
Some motorists said they had spent less than two hours in the queue to access the Zimbabweans side of the border.
“I arrived here at around 2pm and the queue was moving though at a relatively slower pace due to the non-availability of parking space within the border.
“We decided to delay travelling after learning that the border was heavily congested in the last three days,” said Mr Luckson Chauke of Chiredzi.
According to Mr Kuda Sibanda, the movement of traffic had improved compared to the run-up to the Christmas and New Year Holidays.
Another border official said they expected the situation at the region’s busiest inland border to improve by the close of business today. The Herald