The Sunday News
Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
MORE than 107 000 people used Sadc’s busiest port of entry and exit, Beitbridge Border Post between Sunday and Friday last week, a 1,6 percent increase from last year during the Easter holidays.
Zimbabweans are on a long holiday that started on Thursday when the country celebrated its 39th Independence before Easter which started on Friday and ends tomorrow. In an interview, the assistant regional immigration officer-in-charge for Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said they cleared 107 367 people between 14 and 19 April, while last year they handled 105 762 throughout the Easter Holidays. He said they anticipated the number of travellers to increase further later from yesterday to tomorrow.
Sunday News understands that the volume of human and vehicular traffic has been increasing in the last few months owing to a number of border efficient strategies being implemented by authorities from both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“During the period 14 April and 19 April we cleared 63 974 entries and 43 393 exits. You will note that in 2018 we had a total of 59 400 entries and 46 362. We expect the numbers to increase even further as more people are still coming in for the holidays. Though traffic has relatively been increasing the situation on the ground is manageable.
“To improve on efficiency on the ground we are implementing a harmonised border efficiency plan with all border agencies on the Zimbabwean and South African components of the border.
Off and leave days have been suspended for the period 16 April to 5 May. In addition we have collapsed our four shifts into three. This is to cater for all anticipated traffic from schools closure, Independence Day, Easter Holidays and schools opening,” he said.
Mr Ncube said the extra officers from the collapsed shift were covering identified vulnerable points and manning outside counters.
He said they had also intercepted 689 people within the border and turned away 399 mainly illegal migrants, conmen, touts, dealers at the north gate (entry to Zimbabwean border) for violating immigrations laws. He said a further 192 travellers were refused entry into South Africa for various reasons including documentation, overstaying, not stamping passports, among others.
Mr Ncube said seven people were also refused entry into Zimbabwe for either having no visas or no documents or stamping problems on their passports.
“We are trying to deal with the high number of refusals from South Africa. Ever since we implemented the gates lock down we are experiencing a decline in Refusals from South Africa and an increase in arrests at our check points. We hope the turned away figures will translate to less touts, vendors and beggars within the border,” said Mr Ncube.
South Africa’s Home Affairs spokesperson Mr Thabo Mokgola said in a statement last week that they had deployed 235 more immigration officers to busy ports of entries including Beitbridge Border Post during the Easter holidays. He said they had also extended operation hours at some busy ports to minimise delays.
“An integrated operational plan for port operations will be implemented from Tuesday, 16 April 2019. This operational plan aims to ensure that services are delivered at Ports of Entry where only legitimate people and goods are allowed to enter or depart the country.
“We aim for a secure port of entry where potential violators are deterred, threats and inadmissible people, goods and conveyances are intercepted, legitimate trade and travel are facilitated and operations and outcomes are consistent.”