Stakeholders welcome reopening of borders
Thupeyo Muleya and Ivan Zhakata
STAKEHOLDERS at the country’s ports of entry have said they are adequately prepared to handle an anticipated surge in vehicular and human traffic following the reopening of borders to the vaccinated public.
Bus operators, informal traders and small to medium businesses have also commended the Government for the latest move to allow cross-border travel.
Zimbabwe shares four land borders with Botswana at Plumtree, Mlambapele, Mpoengs and Maitengwe, and Beitbridge with South Africa.
Prior to the latest decision by Cabinet on Tuesday, only commercial cargo and Zimbabweans with permits to live or work in other countries were allowed to depart via land borders.
On arrivals, returning immigrants and migrants with valid permits to be in the country were being allowed via the borders.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director, Dr Rudo Chikodzore, said they will continue using tight screening and surveillance measures at the ports of entry in line with the set Covid-19 protocols.
“We have been very busy during the lockdown and we are ready to deal with huge volumes of traffic. Adjustments will be made depending on the context of the situation on the ground,” she said.
“In fact, it is going to be business as usual for our teams which we beefed up during the lockdowns. These have been dealing with huge volumes of traffic mainly of returning immigrants averaging around 500 daily.”
Beitbridge regional immigration officer-in-charge, Mr Joshua Chibundu, said they had adequately deployed manpower to enhance compliance and a speedy flow of traffic.
“We have always been ready to roll and we will review operations depending on the situation on the ground,” he said.
Chairperson of the Beitbridge Informal Cross Border Traders’ Associations, Mr Mafios Macheka, said the move to reopen land borders had been long overdue.
“We are over the moon and very grateful with the position taken by the Government, considering that many of our members procure or buy their wares from across the borders.
“This is quite a relief and now we can properly plan and save money. It is very critical that we use safer migration methods rather than skipping borders which had become high-risk and some people were losing fortunes to criminals at illegal crossing points,” Mr Macheka said.
He encouraged cross-border traders to honour their obligations through making use of formally designated entry points at the same time observing the laid down Covid-19 protocols.
Zimbabwe Passenger Transporters’ Organisation (ZPTO) chairman, Dr Sam Nanhanga, said the decision by the Government to reopen borders was a relief to bus operators.
“We work according to the law and if the Government feels that the Covid-19 is low and the borders are safe, we welcome the decision,” he said.
Beitbridge Business Association Co-ordinator, Mr Clevers Moyo, said: “Our local business community and the generality of the entire population rely on South Africa for their products for resale in Zimbabwe.
“Local suppliers’ prices are high and erode profit margins. Because of that, the Beitbridge business community imports most of their products from South Africa. We therefore welcome the re-opening of the border.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Plumtree handled 2,5 million travellers annually while Beitbridge processed 7 million travellers per year.
However, under restrictive travel measures, Plumtree would handle less than 500 with Beitbridge handling 2 500 people daily.