Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The country’s southern borders with Botswana (Plumtree) and South Africa (Beitbridge) re-opened as planned at 6am today with low activity under a new set up where passenger traffic including motorists and pedestrians is now allowed passage through the port of entries.
Strict and safe covid-19 screening methods are being carried on all those leaving or entering the country.
Before the reopening of the borders to more traffic, today, Plumtree and Beitbridge were handling 5000 and 15 000 people daily.
Zimbabwe suspended passenger traffic through its borders from March to control the spread of the pandemic.
Until today, only commercial cargo, returning residents, bodies for burial and diplomatic on Government business were allowed to pass through the borders.
When our news crew arrived at the Beitbridge around 5am, there were very few people and security had been beefed up at all entry and exit points of the border parameter.
Those travellers without valid travel documents were being turned away.
In addition, the use of foot baths, automated thermometers, the use of hand washing water basins , the directing of traffic into light motor vehicles, buses, light commercial and heavy-duty trucks were being strictly enforced by immigration guards and a private security company engaged by Zimra.
According to one border official a total of 93 travellers left the country between 6am and 8am while 116 entered the country from South Africa.
“Activity is still low. Our understanding is that most travellers could have adopted a wait and see attitude considering the rigorous screening processes relating to covid-19 protocols,” said the source.
The Assistant Immigration Officer in charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube was not readily available for comment.
One of those who were turned away for having an invalid passport, Mr Obey Makwara said; “I am stranded, I have a valid permit to be in South Africa but unfortunately, my passport expired last month, so I was not allowed to leave the country.
“I will have to wait for a new passport since I have made an application”.
Another traveller who preferred not to be named said the Government should intervene on the testing fees being charged by most laboratories which are beyond the reach of ordinary people.
“US$60 is too much considering the state of the affairs at the household level. Our view as ordinary people are that these tests should be done for between US$5 and US$10,” he said.
Mr Panashe Nkosi said the border clearing processes had greatly improved as compared to the last six years.
“It’s pleasing to note that the South African and Zimbabwean governments are taking the pandemic seriously judging by the level of preparedness on the ground.
“The border processes are excellent and seamless. It’s a great experience for me, I haven’t come home by road for the past six years,” he said.
Ms Lucia Chidenga said she was happy to be home after almost two years to reunite with her family. Several cross border drivers said they were impressed with the clearance processes and the separation of traffic.
“We haven’t had unnecessary delays, we are always engaging with authorities where they are challenges and hope to maintain that relationship,” said Mr Tawanda Takezawa who chairs the association for Beitbridge cross border drivers.
It was also all systems go at Plumtree, where officials said traffic was very low and that 15 people had crossed the border between 6 am and 8 am.
“It’s all systems out, but we have a low traffic, we will keep monitoring,” said the source.