31 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Normalcy Returns At Beitbridge Border

Beitbridge Bureau — The volume of traffic has significantly dropped at Beitbridge Border Post as most people crossed into the country between December 15 and 24 for the Christmas and New Year holidays. The border post had turned into a nightmare for most travellers following an influx of Zimbabweans based in South Africa trooping into the country for the festive season.

Congestion at the border had resulted in cars forming double queues outside the customs and immigration halls with some travellers spending over four hours in customs and immigration clearance.

The worst affected were motorist with foreign registered vehicles who had to wait for longer hours to pay various levies at the limited Zimbabwe Revenue Authority counters.

A 34-year-old chronically ill man collapsed and died while in a queue on the South African side of the border during that time. By end of day yesterday short queues of cars and people were witnessed being cleared expeditiously at both the Zimbabwean and South African sides of the border.

Movement was relatively low for both north and southbound traffic. On average 6 000 people access the border per day, but during the festive season the border carries four times its capacity.

According to immigration officers most travellers entered the country between 20 and 22 December where both immigration and customs had a hard time.

"At the moment we have few people coming through though we expect the volume of both human and vehicular traffic to increase on the departure side between January 2 and 4 as people would be returning to South Africa," said an immigration officer who preferred anonymity.

Figures from the Department of Immigration show that a total of 25 396, 25 240 and 37 055 entered the country on December 20, 21 and 22 respectively.

The numbers have relatively dwindled and are expected to peak from 3 January especially on southbound traffic.

On average 2 000 cars pass through the border post and the number increase to around 3 500 during holidays.

The Assistant Regional Immigration officer-in-charge of southern region (Beitbridge) Mr Charles Gwede said in a recent interview that they had received more relief officers to assist with the clearance of travellers.

He said the situation was still manageable adding that they had staggered the peak periods into normal and extra peak periods

"Our prediction is that between December 14 and 17, December 21 and 24 and January 4 to 7 will be extra peak periods.

"We have made the necessary preparations for the influx of traffic. Every stakeholder at the border post has been playing their role well so far. We will also continue to review the situation in line with the increase in volume of traffic" he said.

Challenges at the border had mainly been attributed to manpower shortages and this year Zimra deployed more relief officers from less busy stations, while the department of immigration deployed an additional 20 to boost their strength on the ground.

Zimra needs a total of 247 technical staff (including supervisors) at Beitbridge, but they currently have a staff establishment 141.

The Department of Immigration needs between 70 and 80, but they are currently operating with 55 officers including support staff.

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