Hundreds of truck drivers spent their Christmas on the densely congested N1 road outside the port of entry. Most of them have been stuck on queues that stretch as far back as 10 kilometres for several days. Traffic flow into the port of entry has, however, eased for light motor vehicles.
SABC News reporter Pimani Baloyi and Cameraman Hulisani Livhebe were taken on an exclusive tour of the port of entry. They found only one traveller being processed inside the immigration office, with over 10 officials ready to process more. A further walk into the facility revealed sedans as well as bakkies, taxis and busses queuing to exit South Africa after being cleared. Officials say there seems to be a challenge with Zimbabwe’s capacity to accept large quantities of travellers.
Home Affairs’ Director of Ports of Entry Stephene Van Neel says: “A second dependency is also that what is it that Zimbabwe can receive and as we can see here now that there are a lot of busses are already cleared, passengers are already cleared and they waiting for transiting into Zimbabwe so we have a problem there as well.”
Some commuters and light vehicle motorists were hopeful that they will spend the remainder of Christmas with their families after they were cleared speedily.
“It wasn’t really that bad just starting from today and also the papers, we were cleared very fast but the only problem that is hindering us right now is the trucks over there,” said one.
“For me I don’t want to lie because I just arrived, I think its only two hours now I’m going to Zim side, I think for now I have done everything my bus is already cleared and they have stamped the passports I am now going to Zim side now,” added another traveller.
Traffic flow remains congested at the Beitbridge border post:
Outside the border post though, truck drivers remain frustrated as they remain stuck in snaking queues.
“It’s four days now still on the road and where I am now and the border is about 5 kilometres. So I think I will take another four days to reach the border, I don’t know what to do and I have got groceries and presents for my kids and I don’t know what to do worth the groceries and it’s hot here,” one told the SABC News crew.
“I was opening to spend Christmas with my family but we are now waiting here, its four days now,” added another.
Eight people have been confirmed to have died at the Beitbridge Border post in Musina Limpopo in the period starting December 14th. According to authorities, seven people have been confirmed to have died while waiting for their transportation to enter the port of entry, while an eighth one collapsed and died while inside the border.
“The reports that we have been getting from the responsible authorities are saying that we had two fatalities on the 14th and then another six that died from the 22nd until yesterday so we have about 8 people and I must also say that it’s only one person who died inside the post, the others were on the way to the port and because of congestion they found themselves collapsing on the road,” explains Van Neel.
While large numbers of travellers are a common sight during the festive season at Beitbridge, what is unusual this Christmas Day is that most of them are usually cleared and allowed to enter Zimbabwe by today.