Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Zimbabwe and South Africa will at midnight jointly close Beitbridge Border Post to non-residents with only Zimbabwean residents allowed to travel north and South African residents to move south.
Cargo operations will not be interrupted.
Zimra has since announced streamlined processes at Beitbridge for clearing cargo shipments that rely on high level compliance and minimum human contact.
The Zimbabwean travel ban was announced by President Mnangagwa on Monday as part of a cocktail of measures to manage and contain Covid-19 while South Africa is going into a 21-day lockdown tonight, which includes travel restrictions.
To avoid confusion, the two countries have agreed to coordinate immigration policies on each side of the border.
The assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge in Zimbabwe, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said they had agreed in principle with the South Africans to synchronise operations for the next 21 days.
“What it means is that by Thursday midnight we are closing the border to non-essential human traffic and we have agreed to synchronise the compliance period with our South African counterparts,” he said.
“Only Zimbabweans travelling from South Africa and those foreigners who have valid permits to reside in the country will be allowed passage north at this border. The same applies to those leaving the country. It will be the South Africans and those who are residents of the neighbouring country who will depart.
“As per the Presidential declaration, we will allow the movers of freight to access the border to ensure that all the essential commodities are moved into either country.”
As of yesterday, people were seen on both sides in last minute trips, some of whom said they wanted to join their spouses in either country since schools have been closed.
Under normal circumstances, 14 000 people, 120 buses, 500 commercial trucks and 3 000 vehicles use Beitbridge Border Post daily. This includes people in transit to countries north of the Zambezi.
The parastatal said clearance procedures had been simplified and travellers were required to tender correct declarations for processing including the payment of any duties, taxes and charges due.
Modalities for Manifest Control, CTIPs, Release Desk and ECTS are reportedly being worked out and will be announced in due course.
Zimra said that at Beitbridge there would no longer be physical access to reception, doc ccheck and queries, including the queries window on the exit side and manifest control window on the entry side in line with the precautions stipulated by Government.
“Be advised that all doc check and queries issues, including formal correspondence, should be dealt with in the system or by way of email or telephone with the appropriate responses in the same way.
“All physical examinations have been suspended and any system initiated PEs will be waived by default until further notice.
“In addition, all permits and schedules required for mark off should now be submitted to and retained by Zimra in clearly marked and secure folders and all calculated duties, taxes, other charges and fines levied remain payable,” said Zimra.
However, Zimra says the foregoing dispensations do not preclude the need for future audits or review of all or any declarations selected for such future enforcement, including the physical examination of any available goods subject matter of such declarations.
“It is therefore peremptory that all declarations be correct in all respects and that any supporting documents attached be correct, valid and relevant to the declaration,” said Zimra.
At the same time Zimra has suspended clearing goods and vehicles under the immigration rebate scheme with those wishing to benefit allowed to approach Zimra in 21 days with certification proving they are clear of the coronavirus.
Forbes Border Post was yesterday open to commercial truckers with goods in transit, and returning residents only.
On the Zimbabwean side, truckers said they were taking up to five hours to complete processes.
The truckers were being screened as they entered Zimbabwe.
“We are being served here at Forbes although it is taking a long time for us to complete all processes. I travelled from Zambia and I am going to Beira, but I have not encountered any problems at all borders I crossed,” said Mr Lameck Mapundi, a truck driver.
Meanwhile, Sadc has urged all in the region to respect measures put in place by the member countries and has called for unity of purpose in the region in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was said by Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax in a statement to mark the Southern Africa Liberation Day, set for March 23 the 2018 summit.
“This year’s commemoration of the Southern Africa Liberation Day is coming at a time when the world at large, and all of us, are grappling with COVID-19, which has been declared a global pandemic and public health emergency by the World Health Organisation.
“I appeal to everyone to adhere to all measures being put in place by our Governments to avoid or minimise the spread of the virus.
“We shall not fail, let us cooperate and move in unity, everyone must play their part, a paradigm shift in the way we conduct ourselves and our businesses is a must,” Dr Tax said in the statement.
Sadc has since suspended face-to-face regional meetings following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Dr Tax also paid tribute to the men and women that sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the region.