A SHORTAGE of ablution facilities became a major challenge at Beitbridge, as more than 200 000 people travelled between South Africa and Zimbabwe in the last fortnight ahead of the festive season.
BY REX MPHISA
Erratic water supplies also affected the travellers. Cleaners at the few available toilets were stretched and at times became impatient with travellers, particularly women who formed long queues at the available ablution facilities.
Although processing of travellers was relatively fast at Immigration and Customs and Excise counters and other clearing points dotted around and inside the border post, travellers, particularly women, were affected by the lack of adequate ablution facilities.
“I have been in the toilet queue for 30 minutes; there are too many who want to use the facilities and the toilets are not enough,” one woman said.
Although portable toilets were brought in to alleviate the problem, they proved inadequate.
Toilet attendants from a company hired by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority were overwhelmed by the crowds, and at times vented their frustration on travellers.
The upgrading and expansion of the Beitbridge Border Post, which was expected to commence in September last year, includes modern ablution facilities. The expansion includes a concrete surface and separate routes for trucks, buses, private vehicles and pedestrians.
NewsDay understands work on the upgrade, whose ground-breaking was officiated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa this year, would now commence in January 2019.
Customs officials at Beitbridge referred all questions to their head office in Harare, which was closed yesterday.
Travellers arriving from South Africa dominated the border post where officials, despite a few noticeable impediments, were on top of the situation.
Statistics released by the South Africa Home Affairs Department showed that 200 000 travellers had been processed at Beitbridge from December 1 to 17, but that number rose at the weekend after industries in that country shut down for the Christmas break.
The temporary import permit (TIP) for foreign registered vehicles, insurance and road access payments continued to cause delays, with close to 3 000 vehicles having been cleared in the last two days, according to figures seen by NewsDay.
Yesterday, a sea of people were inside the border post and bottlenecks were visible at the TIP, Bhadharai Anti-smuggling checkpoint and the arrival side exit gate, where police hunted for border jumpers who, when caught, paid fines for illegally departing the country.
Last minute shoppers flocking to South Africa also increased the movement at Beitbridge.
Border officials on both sides were, for the first time in years, efficient with little or no harassment of travellers, save for minor incidents by rogue officials, some of who were arrested on Friday for demanding bribes from cross-border transporters.
South Africa Home Affairs minister, Siyabonga Cwele, on Thursday toured Beitbridge and expressed satisfaction with measures put in place by his department to expeditiously handle travellers.
Motorists from Zimbabwe, however, complained about being grouped with pedestrians which they said defeated the purpose of using vehicles as a faster means of travel.
“We are not saying we are better people, but we expect them to separate us from those that are walking and those that are in buses to reduce crowding,” said a motorist who identified himself as Clifford Maimba.
Like Zimbabwe, South Africa beefed up its staff at Beitbridge for the festive season and Cwele said all auxiliary staff would remain at Beitbridge until January 9, 2019.