Beitbridge Bureau — The Department of Immigration says it is ready to deal with the surge in both human and vehicular traffic which is expected at Beitbridge Border Post during the Easter holidays.
Already the number of arrivals into the country (Zimbabwe) has been on the increase since the beginning of this week following the closure of schools in South Africa.
On average 8 000 people are cleared per day at the border post which is one of the busiest inland ports of entry in Southern Africa and the number peaks to about 25 000 during holidays.
The assistant regional immigration officer- in-charge of Southern Region (Beitbridge), Mr Charles Gwede, said they had come up with a host of measures to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.
He said they had set the period between March 20 and April 3 as the extra peak during the holiday where they expected to handle the highest number of traffic.
Mr Gwede said they had agreed in principle with their counterparts in South Africa to align the clearance of both human and vehicular traffic coming into and leaving Zimbabwe.
He added the department would implement the clearance system it used during the Christmas holiday last year which had proved to be effective.
The system, he said, would be constantly reviewed depending on the situation on the ground.
"We have met as border authorities from both Zimbabwe and South Africa and agreed to align the clearance of traffic during the Easter holidays so that we avoid a repeat of the chaotic situation we experienced in January," he said.
Accessing South Africa through Beitbridge border post had become a nightmare for many travellers after immigration officers from that country had taken a business as usual approach despite noting an increase in traffic.
Normalcy returned after Zimbabwe engaged South Africa through Co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi.
Mr Gwede said traffic had since been separated into buses, pedestrians, tourists, commercial and returning residents so as to avoid unnecessary delays. During off peak periods these are all cleared in the main immigration hall.
He said they were expecting 20 more staff members from less busy stations to beef up their operations. The department of immigration has 50 workers against a requirement of 80 for them to operate at full strength.
"We have opened up more clearing points and we will collapse our four shifts to three during the holidays. We will be alternating between three and two depending on the volume of traffic until the end of the Easter holidays," he said.
Mr Gwede said they had deployed immigration security guards at all entry and exit points to ensure the safety of travellers.
South Africa's Border Control Operation Co-ordinating Committee (BCOCC) spokesperson Mr Calvin Mulaudzi said yesterday that they were ready for an increase in traffic at the border adding that they would continually engage Zimbabwean border authorities to review progress regularly.
"We are ready for the increase in volume of traffic. As we speak we have people on the ground putting final touches to various measures we would employ to ensure a speedy flow of traffic.
"We will issue a statement in due course advising the travelling public on our clearing arrangements at the border and what we also expect from them.
"Furthermore we are also set to meet again this week with our Zimbabwean counterparts to review progress on the ground," he said.