Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele says his department is closely monitoring the Beit Bridge border post in light of the current protests in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been plagued by violent protests sparked by the announcement of a fuel hike to almost R45 a litre for petrol last week.
The steep fuel hikes in Zimbabwe have led to deadly protests and several episodes of an internet shutdown by the government. Should the situation remain the same, possibilities of Zimbabweans seeking refuge in South Africa are high. Minister Cwele says they hope a solution in that country will be found soon.
“Do we have the capacity to deal with? I don’t think we have the capacity to deal with the unexpected high volumes. It’s better in the festive seasons, it’s planned, we know people will be travelling home, but if there are events that cause people to move and that is why we are hoping they will be able to find a solution to create stability in our neighbour.”
In case of any eventualities, the South African government says it has a contingency plan, which include among others the beefing up of immigration personnel at the border. Stephen Van Neel, Director of ports of entry at the department, says that they have not yet seen an increase in travelling through the port.
“What we have observed in the last week and a half or two, we haven’t seen an increase of travelling through the port so what it tells us is that the situation in Zimbabwe hasn’t really affected us in any way or form but we do have some contingency, although not enough capacity but if there is a need that we need to respond to a situation, we should be able to do so.”
Nel says although the situation in Zimbabwe hasn’t affected South Africa yet, they are continuing to monitor activities on a daily basis.
“There is engagement between the Beit Bridge officials on our side as well as Beit Bridge officials on the Zimbabwean side to monitor the situation and give us feedback on a daily basis on what should be done. If I can report, for instance last Monday, we had a situation that was uprising on the Zimbabwean side of Beit Bridge and we could easily prepare ourselves if anything is happening on our side because officials of Zim had engaged us.”
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