Zimbabweans travelling home for the holidays need a negative Covid-19 certificate in both directions.
The certificate costs at least R850 in South Africa and about R920 in Zimbabwe, and some say they cannot afford it.
Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the rule will be strictly enforced.
For many Zimbabweans, the cost of the Covid-19 tests necessary to cross the border will make the annual return home unaffordable.
Many Zimbabweans staying and working in South Africa travel back home at the end of the year to spend the Christmas and New year holidays with their families. But several told GroundUp they would not be able to afford the test which both the Zimbabwean and South African governments demand.
Zimbabweans travelling home must present a negative Covid-19 test not older than 48 hours. The test costs R850 in a private laboratory. "If you want to travel to another country, yes you need a Covid-19 certificate. It is your own private thing so you can visit private laboratories for the Covid-19 test and get a certificate," said Thilivhali Muavha, spokesperson for the Limpopo health department. "Public hospitals do not do that."
On their return to South Africa, travellers from Zimbabwe must present a negative test not older than 72 hours. That test costs $60USD (around R920).
At a meeting in Musina on 27 November, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi and Zimbabwean Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe said the regulations must be followed.
"We are going to be demanding Covid-19 certificates," said Motsoaledi.
Marvelous Moyo, who runs a food stall near the South African gate, said since March this year she had not been able to afford to visit her family in Masvingo because lockdown had affected her business.
"Though borders were opened for us to travel back home I could not travel back home. My only means of sustaining a living is through selling food at this place. The little money I am getting since we were allowed to go back to business is not enough to meet the travel costs including Covid-19 certificates."
I wish both governments would drop this requirement because I really need to visit my family," said Moyo.
Another Zimbabwean trader, Ruth Chirinda, also expressed concerns about the certificate. "I really miss my three children who are being taken care of by my mother. Since March I could not travel back home. Now it is December time I need to spend the holiday with the family," said Chirinda. Other Zimbabweans told Groundup they would use illegal routes to return home.
Speaking to the media Kazembe said, "We need to save lives. This pandemic is real. We urge our citizens to plan their trips. If you know you want to travel in a couple of weeks, just do what is expected of you so that you do not have challenges at the border."
"Now that the borders are open it is not going to be free for all," said Motsoaledi. "We are going to be very strict." He said there would be joint operations involving the SANDF, SAPS, municipal police and SARS to minimise illegal crossing. And measures were in place to detect fake Covid-19 certificates, he said.
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