7 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Mohadi to Meet South African Counterpart Over Beitbridge Chaos

Photo: Dylan Thomas / UKaid / Department for International Development
Barbed fencing lines the South Africa - Zimbabwe border.

Beitbridge Bureau — HOME Affairs co-Minister Kembo Mohadi intends to engage his South African counterpart Mrs Naledi Pandor to avert a potentially volatile situation at Beitbridge Border Post. Human and vehicular traffic increased last week as Zimbabweans based in South Africa and other holidaymakers trooped back to that country.

The slow movement of traffic has been blamed on South Africa's Department of Immigration which has reportedly taken a casual approach, despite the surge in traffic.

Minister Mohadi dismissed the South Africans' work ethics as "unneighbourly".

Accessing South Africa has become a nightmare.

Some motorists have reportedly spent between two to three days in queues.

Queues for cars, mainly South African registered ones, stretched for over 10 kilometres outside the border post on both roads leading to Harare and Bulawayo.

These had since been cleared by Zimbabwe officials, but were awaiting departure to South Africa.

The Department of Immigration had to seek assistance from the police to control restless travellers.

An average of 9 000 people cross the border per day and the figure rises to 25 000 during peak times, with an estimated 2 000 private cars and 1 500 trucks also passing the same border post, the busiest in Southern Africa.

"We are going to engage the new South African Home Affairs Minister on Monday (today) over the chaotic situation at Beitbridge Border Post.

"The deplorable situation there is purely an administrative issue which I believe is not South Africa's government policy.

"We have had situations where some pedestrians have been teargassed or watered by police on that country's border and told to go back to Zimbabwe.

"What is also worrying is that they are inconveniencing other travellers who are passing South Africa in transit and have planes to catch.

"You will note that these cars have been cleared in Zimbabwe in a few hours and are only waiting to gain access to South Africa.

"Furthermore, most of them are South African passport holders and we don't know why they are treating their fellow countrymen this way.

"At the moment, these cars have virtually closed one lane of both highways leading to Harare and Bulawayo.

"Such a scenario will cause unnecessary accidents as other motorists have to share the other lane.

"As Zimbabwe, we can't let the situation go unaddressed, we hope a solution will be arrived at soon," he said.

The minister said Zimbabwean border authorities have tried on several occasions to engage the South Africans, but nothing had materialised.

He said at the start of the festive season, border authorities from both countries had agreed to harmonise operations, but the South Africans reneged on their promise.

"You will note that some criminals and wheeler dealers have taken advantage of the situation, where they are duping motorists and the travelling public under the guise they will facilitate speedy movement.

"Such criminals should be warned that the police are out in full force to get them," said Cde Mohadi.

Beitbridge handles traffic heading to countries north of the Limpopo and South African authorities at times think everyone crossing to that country must be Zimbabwean.

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