Arusha — THE Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, made a surprise visit at Namanga Border Post over the weekend and discovered some bizarre happenings at the crossing point.
Mr Kagasheki, apparently, has been receiving many complaints from tourists entering Tanzania via Namanga over cumbersome practices, delays and dubious practices by immigration and customs officers at the Tanzanian side of the border. The minister observed that it takes between 15 and 20 minutes for a foreigner to be cleared at the border where in most cases all the desks are usually empty with just one window open.
"I do not understand how all immigration officers vacate their positions leaving just one person to handle travellers and visitors," wondered Mr Kagasheki who was even more infuriated upon being told that sometimes the entire immigration desk will be deserted, forcing people to wait for the officers to come back and attend them.
Compared to highly efficient Kenyan officials on the other side of Namanga, the minister pointed out that the immigration officers on the Tanzanian side were tarnishing the image of the country and as a result the tourism industry here continues to suffer.
VISA payments for foreigners at Namanga was being done through very long processes, of forcing foreigners to trek long distances to a nearby bank to settle the payments where they normally have to queue and once they get the payment receipts they are again compelled to walk back same distances to the immigration offices where they have to queue again for their passports to be stamped.
On the Kenyan side of the border, the bank has a window next to the clearing desks which means visa payments and passport stamping are done under one roof. The safety at the border, where a number of loitering youths and other suspicious characters keep rising is also raising concern among travellers using the Namanga point of entry, while the not-so-polite language of immigration and customs officers in Tanzania reportedly continue to take toll on local tourism industry.