Beitbridge Chaos – Storm Helps Stranded Travellers

A VIOLENT storm that lashed Beitbridge on Tuesday night brought smiles on thousands of stranded Zimbabweans crossing into South Africa as the harsh weather forced immigration officials to hurriedly clear the travellers, fearing riots from the frustrated masses.

South Africans launched a blistering attack against Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi for the escalating crisis at the region’s busiest border post.

MDC-Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere yesterday criticised the government for failing to handle the Beitbridge chaos.

“The situation at Beitbridge border is compounded by the fact that we are in the middle of a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The crowds gathered there seeking passage to South Africa make a mockery of the rules against gathering, social distancing and cleanliness. There are legitimate fears that such gatherings are super-spreaders of the virus which is a hazard to communities both in Zimbabwe and South Africa,” she said. “We implore authorities to take urgent steps to resolve the crisis at the border post. However, as we have stated, to focus only on the situation at Beitbridge would be to merely deal with symptoms of a bigger problem. That bigger problem is the crisis of governance underwritten by a political process that is contaminated by illegitimacy.”

South Africa opposition political party Economic Freedom Fighters spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi questioned Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s lethargic approach to the border chaos.

Ndlozi slammed Mnangagwa, saying he should stop “grandstanding on Twitter”.

“Take mobile test stations to your borders with SA. This is the most urgent problem now. The border is presenting a big superspreader (of Covid-19). Oh, and are you actually tweeting from a holiday or from work?”

President Mnangagwa is on annual leave and one of his two deputies Kembo Mohadi is the acting president.

Ndlozi, who on Tuesday rejected calls for the border to be closed, claiming that it would be “inhumane” and “breed a worse humanitarian crisis than Covid-19”, asked Ramaphosa to intervene.

Another EFF legislator Floyd Shivambu chipped in, “What’s happening in Beitbridge is unacceptable and once again exposes the perennial incompetence of Home Affairs minister Motsoaledi.

“Ramaphosa, is this what your government does to Africans, who are not forbidden by any law to cross the border?”

Jonathan Jansen said: “Dear President Ramaphosa. Please say something about Beitbridge. Show that you are concerned about this unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Please speak for us”.

Motsoaledi could spark an undeclared cold war with Harare after accusing Zimbabwean soldiers and policemen at the border of corruption.

His office, using electronic surveillance reportedly has video footage of Zimbabwean border jumpers from South Africa bribing the military and police.

On Tuesday night, nature stepped in just when the hundreds of travellers cleared on the Zimbabwean side were stuck on the South African side. A violent storm became a saviour to stranded travellers.

The heavy storm which pounded Beitbridge from midnight till morning forced immigration authorities to speed up clearing thousands of Zimbabweans flocking back to South Africa.

“Officials began to let them in for shelter and an arrangement was made to have them cleared into SA,” said an official stationed at the border.

Yesterday, only a handful of travellers wishing to enter South Africa were cleared as the long queues dwindled.

“We expect to finish this queue today before cut off time. We realised most people who were stuck on no-man’s land were waiting for buses and we cleared the buses into SA. There were about 50 buses which translates to about 3 000 people,” said the regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Nqobile Ncube.

Strict scrutiny of travellers and Covid-19 certificates by South African officials has been blamed for the delays and a messy congestion at the border.

South Africa is restricting international travel by road and insists that only those with resident, education and workers permits enter the country.

A health disaster is looming in Beitbridge after stranded travellers used the bridge and bush as ablution facilities.

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