THE number of travellers who left the country through Beitbridge Border Post shot to a record 295,623 in the past 10 days as scores of people, mostly Zimbabwean Christmas shoppers flocked to South Africa.
Between Friday and Monday, 52,935 travellers left the country through the country’s busiest inland port of entry. Immigration authorities who spoke to media yesterday attributed the increase to the decline in value of the South African Rand. Yesterday evening, the rand was trading at 1:15,87 to the US dollar.
The assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Notius Tarisai said Zimbabwean travellers were taking advantage of the weakening rand to do their Christmas Shopping. “On a normal day, the border handles between 7,000 and 10,000 people, but however, of late we have been recording a sharp increase as travellers flocked to South Africa to do shopping ahead of Christmas. During this time of the year, we usually get an increased number on the arrival side as Zimbabweans working in South Africa would be coming home for the holidays,” said Tarisai. On Monday, 11,691 people left Zimbabwe for South Africa through Beitbridge. Tarisai said in the past few days they have been recording a steady increase in the number of travellers to the neighbouring country. Statistics indicate that between December 1 and Monday, 295,623 people left the country through Beitbridge while 180,390 entered the country. “From our statistics it is clear that we have more people leaving than those entering the country,” he said.
Tarisai said they anticipated a sharp increase on the arrivals side starting Friday as injiva start streaming home for the festive period. Yesterday, We observed a few travellers, mostly injiva trickling into the country and the queues were relatively shorter on both sides compared to previous years, on days preceding Christmas. “We are managing the situation for now although we anticipate an increase in the volume of traffic over the weekend. Our festive operational period began on December 8 to January 6 next year and we have suspended all leave and off days for our staff so that we speed up the clearance process,” said Tarisai. “We have created separate counters for tourists, returning residents, commercial traffic while locals are being cleared both inside the immigration hall and outside so that we avoid congestion,” he said. He said as part of their decongestion drive, they have collapsed their shifts from four to three to maximise on manpower during the normal and extra-peak days. “If the need arises we will further collapse the shifts so that we are able to effectively deal with the situation and ensure that travellers are cleared as quickly as possible, especially on December 23 and 24,” said Tarisai.
He said they have also harmonised their operations with their South African counterparts. “We have also roped in other key players such as the police, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) to help us during this period,” said Tarisai. He warned travellers to be wary of some individuals masquerading as border officials.
“During this time of the year, we also have people who are conning travellers especially those who are not familiar with border formalities. We therefore urge people to approach uniformed staff whenever they need assistance,” said Tarisai. Several unsuspecting travellers have in the past fallen prey to bogus clearing agents and individuals posing as officials,” he said. Beitbridge is the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa.