Commuters travelling from South Africa for the festive season are waiting as long as 12 hours before crossing the Beitbridge border post.
South Africa Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba yesterday visited the entry point in Limpopo in a last ditch bid to inspect the premises and put an end to the nightmare. He was greeted by long queues of cars and people trying to make their way through immigration.
Yesterday Austin Njuga, who was on a road trip home to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, said: “It is terrible. I do not know what is causing the delay that has seen some people spend a night in queues.”
He said Home Affairs should have anticipated the heavy traffic at this time of the year and put in place contingency plans.
The Limpopo port of entry is the main gateway to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A massive number of foreign nationals live and work in South Africa. Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, yesterday tweeted pictures of the queue of backed-up vehicles.
Gigaba has taken an active role in dealing with the traffic congestion and could be seen talking to officials after making the trip to Limpopo. “Malusi Gigaba preparing Beitbridge Home Affairs for the festive season,” Tshwete tweeted.
Traffic police said the number of public transport carriers and passenger vehicles plying the N1 route, from Gauteng to Venda, were on the rise. Transport operators are making a killing from commuters travelling to their countries.
A conductor at the Braamfontein bus rank said yesterday the fare per head from Johannesburg to Harare had substantially “gone up from R400 to R700. We increase the prices in December every year”. A Malawian cross- border bus driver, Lloyd Kalilombe, said the fare from SA to Malawi had also increased – from R1000 to R1500 per person.
“Christmas is the busiest time. This is the only time we can make real money,” he said. “But the problem at the border is that people buy a lot of furniture (household appliances) and groceries to take home. Some have to be unloaded off the bus and reloaded again for customs clearance, which takes a lot of our time”.
Bus after bus departed from Park Station in Johannesburg and at the three international bus terminals in Braamfontein yesterday. There was also a hive of activity at the fourth international terminus in Newtown