Beitbridge not ready for reopening: Govt



GOVERNMENT officials at Beitbridge at the weekend said the border post was not yet ready for fully-fledged reopening and recommended a staggered process fearing seas of lockdown-weary cross-border shoppers.

“It is our recommendation that we start with private vehicles before gradually opening for all and sundry. In this opening period we have to be careful because the disease is on the rise again in neighbouring South Africa,” a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) official told officials from Harare.

The officials led by Stewart Nyakotyo are part of the teams sent by government to investigate the preparedness of the country’s land borders.

Zimbabwe and Botswana are yet to open their borders although the former has remained opened for essential service providers, diplomats, returning residents and permit holders.

All vehicles in transit in the region are being routed through Beitbridge.

Immigration officer-in-charge of Beitbridge Nqobile Ncube reiterated that the staggered reopening would give the country time to monitor the process considering new requirements induced by COVID-19.

“In 2019, we cleared 5,3 million people at this border, with 14 000 passing daily. We could have more people if we open at full throttle considering that people have not been moving for over six months.

“Successful reopening hinge on government’s commitment and availability of resources to attend to safety measures as proposed by stakeholders.”

Zimra official Jericho Rundogo said civil works to upgrade the border had left them with limited space to operate from, prompting the need to stagger the reopening.

“Currently, we are using private cars and bus lanes to clear commercial cargo. Imagine what will happen if we open full scale? So our proposal is, let’s have small or private cars which are easy to manage to come through and we look at public transport after the festive season to avoid chaos,” he said.

The officer-in-charge for Beitbridge police district Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said his section had two cars available for escorts and when those have dispatched, the station would be without transport.

Health officials said three laboratories were expected to set up shop in Beitbridge to provide tests and recommended COVID-19 free certificates — now a requirement for international travel.