Chaos is continuing to reign supreme at the Beitbridge border post as more cross-border buses continue to arrive without clearance from the country’s embassy in South Africa as per the agreement with border authorities last week.
Last week, the embassy and border stakeholders agreed to revert to the lockdown clearance procedure for buses bringing Zimbabweans returning home from South Africa.
This followed an impasse between the transporters and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (zimra) staff at the border.
The revenue collector had argued that it is not yet clearing bus passengers under the current lockdown protocols, prompting an intervention from other border agencies and the Embassy.
Under the arrangement, all buses carrying returning residents to Zimbabwe are subject to clearance (by the embassy) two days before departure. This is done to minimise the number of buses coming in daily and only five will be allowed passage.
However, bus operators, most of who have been incurring losses since the beginning of the lockdown in March, are defying the new order because they want to make up for lost business.
It costs between R600 and R1 500 for a trip from Gauteng and the Cape provinces of South Africa to Zimbabwe.
In some instances, the travellers pay an equal amount or more for their luggage.
“This is a peak period and our services are demand-driven. We can’t turn away travellers, because as far as we know the Government’s position is that people may return home without any hindrances.
“Further, the Embassy clearing process takes time and we can’t afford to lose out on business,” said one transporter who preferred not to be named.
In the last two days buses have been piling up at the border with zimra insisting on clearing buses with clearance from the Embassy in South Africa.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Pretoria, Mr David Hamadziripi said he was yet to get a full appreciation of the situation obtaining at the border.
“We have spoken to border authority mainly on the issue of facilitating a seamless movement of commercial cargo, which we note has improved. We are yet to get a full appreciation on issues regarding the cross border buses,” said the Ambassador.
The Coach and Bus Operators Association, chief executive, Mr Alex Kautsiro said he was on leave and did not have full details on the situation at the border.
Before the lockdown started (April), a total of 200 buses were passing through Beitbridge Border Post daily and the number increased during peak periods.
The Herald is reliably informed that some cross-border bus companies started advertising for the resumption of services prior to October 1 when South Africa re-opened 18 of its land borders to passenger traffic.
Zimbabwe will re-open, Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, Forbes and Victoria Falls borders to passenger traffic starting with private motorists and pedestrians on December 1.
Public transport will be re-introduced in the first quarter of next year.