WATCH: Reopening borders excites travellers

The Chronicle

Mashudu Netsianda and Thupeyo Muleya, Chronicle Reporters
THE reopening of the country’s inland border posts has ignited excitement among travellers, bus operators and communities in border towns.

Travellers started crossing land borders on Monday after the Government lifted restrictions that prohibited non-essential travel in the last two years to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Cross-border couriers known as omalayitsha offload goods for inspection by Zimra officials at Plumtree Border Post yesterday

Cabinet recently approved the reopening of land borders to travellers, but, however, there have been delays in implementation of the directive as the relevant ministry was still working on a statutory instrument.

The borders opened following the issuing of General Notice 421 of 2022 by the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe.

According to the notice, which came in the Government Gazette on Monday, entry and exit of persons into or out of Zimbabwe at all ports of entry and exit is permitted subject to the provisions of Statutory Instrument 18 of 2022, on Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment, and Treatment) (Amendment order, 2022 (No 40).

According to S1 18/22, returning residents and visitors are required to adhere to the recommended Covid-19 prevention measures and must have undergone a valid Covid-19 PCR test not more than 48 hours from the time of their departure for Zimbabwe.

Visitors not presenting a valid negative PCR test and a certificate to that effect shall be quarantined at their own expense for 10 days while those found positive will be isolated.

Fully vaccinated returning residents and visitors who present a valid PCR test and certificate do not require to be quarantined.
Those who have received a booster vaccine shot have an entry advantage.

Cross-border buses wait for passengers along George Silundika Street yesterday. The reopening of land borders is set to breathe life into the industry

Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Plumtree Border Post, and travellers on both entry and exit sides had started trickling in following the reopening of the port of entry to pedestrians and private motorists.

Travellers entering and leaving the country were going through the health screening process as part of the Covid-19 WHO regulations.

Travellers who spoke to Chronicle yesterday were excited about the latest development and commended the Government for the reopening inland ports of entry.

“Personally, I am so excited to be visiting my family in Harare after almost two years in Botswana where I eke out a living through metal fabrication. The closure of borders really affected me because I couldn’t visit my family back home and I wish to thank Government for reopening the borders,” said Mr David Mashiri.

Ms Kumbirai Pikirayi, cross-border from Masvingo was all smiles as she went through the screening process at Plumtree Border Post.

“When I heard that the borders were reopened, I couldn’t wait to come here because I am a cross-border trader and my life and that of my family depends on this trade. I am actually on my way to Francistown to buy some wares for resale back home in Masvingo,” she said.

The news crew also spotted Botswana registered cross-border buses arriving into the country for the first time in 18 months.
Assistant Regional Immigration Officer at Plumtree Border Post Mr Nhlanganiso Fule said although there was less activity for now, they were optimistic that the numbers would rise in the next coming days as people were still sceptical.

“We have started handling travellers at the border on both exit and entry sides following the promulgation of the statutory instrument to reopen land borders. The volume of traffic has started picking up and this morning (yesterday) we had a lot of travellers on the departure side,” he said.

“Most of the people who passed through were day trippers and we anticipate to record an increase on the arrival side between 5pm and 10pm when the border closes as those people who left in the morning would returning home.”

According to statistics supplied by immigration authorities, by midday yesterday, 123 travellers has passed through Plumtree Border Post, 14 of which were visitors, 50 returning residents and those who left the country were 59.

Mr Fule said starting today they will increase staff capacity from the current 30 percent to 50 percent in anticipation of an increase in the volume of the traffic.

He said while on the Zimbabwean side travellers entering the country are supposed to have undergone a valid Covid-19 PCR test not more than 48 hours from the time of their departure for Zimbabwe, Botswana does not accept unvaccinated travellers.

“On the Botswana side, for one to enter that country they should have been fully vaccinated, including a booster shot. Without a booster shot, they require a PCR negative test and the vaccination card is scanned and if it is not activated entry will be denied,” he said.

“Those who are not vaccinated are not allowed entry to Botswana.” Mr Fule said there were no challenges so far as travellers were being cleared smoothly. There were no incidents of travellers being turned away.

Cross-border bus operators plying South Africa and Botswana routes said they were looking forward to increased business following the reopening of borders.

“We used to rely on permit holders and now that borders are now open to everyone, we anticipate business to increase, especially towards month end and already some people have started making enquiries,” said a driver of a cross-border bus.

Travellers using the Beitbridge Border Post yesterday commended the Government for lifting restrictions on non-essential travel through land ports.

In separate interviews, travellers said restriction of movement at the peak of Covid-19 had helped contain spread of the pandemic countrywide.

Others said they are delighted that they could now resume their cross-border business after more than two years.

“I am grateful I can now travel freely to stock products for sale from other countries by road,” said Ms Charmaine Chapo, an informal trader.

“At the height of the lockdown, procuring goods became very expensive since the few that were able to travel charged exorbitant prices for transportation.

Some people also risked their lives by crossing borders illegally through undesignated points and it’s gratifying that we can start travelling safely again via designated crossing points.”

Another traveller, Ms Esnath Muranda, said it is important for border authorities to urgently attend to efficiency to speed up the flow of both people and cargo.

“Reopening of the land borders is a huge relief for most women who live on cross-border businesses,” she said.

“It is also pleasing to note that the Beitbridge Border Post is being modernised to address issues of congestion that have become a perennial headache. In the interim, we appeal to authorities to attend to inefficiency issues so that we spend little time at this border.”

A Beitbridge-based cross-border transporter Mr Lloyd Mufunga said they look forward to business peaking in the next few days when more people start travelling between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Acting immigration officer-in-charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Trustworthy Manatsire, said the movement pattern is yet to change, although they have put in place contingency plans to process a surge in human and vehicle traffic volumes.

“Between Monday (6am) and Tuesday (6am), we processed 1 879 arrivals and 935 exits, which is not out of the ordinary. However, we have adequately deployed enough staff to enhance both efficiency and compliance issues,” said Mr Manatsire.

He said they are working in harmony with their South African counterparts and operations will be reviewed depending on the
prevailing situation on the ground.

The separation of traffic into light motor vehicles, buses and commercial trucks, he said had started paying dividends.

“We are handling traffic based on its specific needs and this is key to addressing all efficiency bottlenecks. Our hope is that things can get even better upon completion of the border modernisation project,” said Mr Manatsire.

Senator for Beitbridge, Tambudzani Mohadi, said the move by Government to open land borders will not only help open border towns’ economies, but contribute to a rise in tourist arrivals by road.

She said it is also critical for travellers to continue observing laid down Covid-19 protocols, to curtail the resurgence of new infections.

Before the reopening of inland borders, only Commercial cargo, returning residents including those with permits, bodies of deceased Zimbabweans and diplomatic on Government business were allowed to pass through the borders.
@mashnets @tupeyo

Article Source: The Chronicle

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