The Department of Immigration in Beitbridge has put in place mechanisms aimed at dealing with congestion at the country’s busiest border post in anticipation of an increase in the volume of traffic during the festive period. Assistant regional immigration manager in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Charles Gwede, said they have since held a series of meetings with key stakeholders and their South African counterparts to address congestion at the border.
“We have started preparing for the festive period in anticipation of a huge influx of travellers and all necessary strategies are now in place to help speed up the clearance of people during the festive period,” he said. “We are suspending leave and off-days for staff between 15 December and 16 January next year.
“As part of our decongestion drive we will scramble our shifts to maximise on manpower during the normal and extra peak days. In fact, starting from 15 December we expect a huge influx of travellers hence between 14 and 17 December, 21 and 24 December and 4 to 7 January, we will dissolve our shifts to ensure that we have more officers per shift who would effectively manage the queues and speed up the clearance process,” he said.
Mr Gwede said they were expecting 20 officers from other stations to beef up the local staff and ensure that all check points and counters were adequately manned. Beitbridge Border Post has a staff complement of 47 officers and support staff.
“As border stakeholders, we held several inter-border meetings with our South African counterparts to discuss and explore ways and strategies aimed at dealing with congestion during extra peak periods.
As part of their decongestion strategy, Mr Gwede said they would categorise travellers and create more counters to reduce queues. According to statistics, immigration officials at the border handled 73 825 travellers between Monday and Wednesday on both arrival and departure sides.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) spokesperson, Mr Canisio Mudzimu, said they would deploy relief officers to Beitbridge Border Post to beef up the local staff and help speed up the customs clearance process. “We are geared up in terms of facilitating the smooth movement of both human and vehicular traffic passing through Beitbridge Border Post during the festive season. We will deploy extra officers from less busy stations to Beitbridge Border Post during the festive period and to assist in border operations,” he said.
Beitbridge Border Post requires at least 247 customs officers to man it. The border post, which is the country’s busiest inland port of entry, has an establishment 141 officers. Mr Mudzimu said they would create separate traffic lanes to cater for tourists, returning residents, private motorists, commercial, buses and pedestrians to speed up the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.
Touts and bogus clearing agents continue to find their way into the customs yard where they would swindle unsuspecting travellers of their money under the guise of offering assistance. Beitbridge is the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa, which handles a huge volume of both human and vehicular traffic passing though daily. Commercial trucks destined for East and Central African countries such as Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia also pass through the border post.
On a normal day, the border handles between 6 000 and 8 000 travellers daily with the figures rising to 20 000 during the peak period. Source: Bulawayo24.com