The Herald (Harare)

21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Monday Declared Holiday As Travellers Flood Beitbridge

PRESIDENT Mugabe has declared Monday, December 24 a public holiday. Workers no longer have to worry about retuning to work before going back on holiday for Christmas Day and Boxing Day on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement yesterday that the President declared the public holiday in terms of section 2 (2) of the Public Holidays and Prohibition of Business Act (Chapter 10; 21).

The declaration means most firms would close business today for the Christmas holiday.

The country marks Unity Day tomorrow and by declaring Monday a public holiday, the President has spared workers the hassles of breaking for Unity Day and then coming back to work on Monday.

The declaration of Monday as a public holiday would also excite holidaymakers and Zimbabweans returning for the festive season from outside, as they would have more time with their families.

The Beitbridge Border Post was congested yesterday as people flocked into the country from South Africa.

Immigration statistics indicate that 126 414 people passed through the border post going either way between last Friday and Wednesday this week.

The arrivals' desk handled more travellers than the departure section.

Of the 126 414 travellers, 82 726 were entering the country, while 43 688 were leaving.

Assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Border Post (southern region) Mr Charles Gwede said they anticipated the numbers to increase, particularly on the arrivals side in the run-up to Christmas Day.

"We expect the border to be extremely busy between tomorrow and Monday as more people, especially locals working in South Africa continue to flock home ahead of Christmas," he said.

When The Herald visited the border post yesterday, there were long queues of travellers waiting for both customs and immigration clearance.

Countless South Africa-registered vehicles were parked at the border's clearance bays.

Immigration guards, with the help of the police, controlled the queues on the entry side.

On the departure side, immigration officials were less busy compared to last week when scores of travellers, mostly holidaymakers and early Christmas shoppers crossed to South Africa.

"We have scrambled our shifts to maximise on manpower per shift to effectively manage the queues and speed up the clearance process," Mr Gwede said.

"We also got additional personnel from other less busy stations to beef up our staff complement and I am quite happy with the service that we are rendering to travellers.

"We have categorised our shifts in line with our strategies to decongest the border during the festive rush and so far we are coping."

The Department of Immigration has created additional counters where travellers are using cubicles outside the immigration hall as a decongestion strategy.

Mr Gwede said they had suspended leave and off-days for their staff to speed up the clearance of travellers.

"We have also categorised the festive period into normal, peak and extra peak days basing on the anticipated flow of movement.

"In fact, 21-24 December and 2-7 January are our extra peak days, while between 26-31 December are our normal peak days.

"During the peak days, we will further dissolve our shifts from three to two to ensure that we have more officers per shift who would effectively manage the queues and speed up the clearance process."

On the South African side of the border post, immigration and customs officers have also opened more desks at the South African Revenue Services commercial hall.

Additional officers from the regional office in Thohoyandou have been deployed to the border to quicken the clearance of travelers.

Beitbridge is the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa, which handles a huge volume of traffic, mostly commercial vehicles including those destined for countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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