Zimbabwe’s Embassy in South Africa resumed basic consul services in the neighbouring country today following the easing of the lockdown to contain the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Services including documentation, issuing of birth, national identification documents and passports were suspended in March when Zimbabwe and South Africa introduced a host of measures to minimize the rate of new infections.
Prior to the latest development, the consulate staff in both Johannesburg and Cape Town were only facilitating the repatriations of bodies for burial in Zimbabwe.
In addition, they were also handling the transportation of those Zimbabweans wishing to get home by road through Beitbridge Border Post. So far over 5000 people have returned into the country through the country and Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry.
It is however, not verified how many Zimbabweans are resident in South Africa, though 300 000 are there on a three year Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP).
Thousands others are there on less formal arrangement and some as cross border traders. The country’s Consul-General (CG) to Johannesburg, Mrs Melody Chaurura confirmed the developments yesterday and that the backlog of those seeking consul services was relatively high.
“The backlog is certainly significant given that the station is generally busy. We normally handle 750 to 1000 clients weekly,” said the Consul-General.
“It is natural that we have a long list of clients who are in need of documentation.
“I say this with confidence judging from the increased volume of enquiries received via our various communication channels.”
According to Mrs Chaurura the services at the consulate were being opened up gradually in line with the host Government’s lockdown protocols. She said all clients would be served strictly by appointment between 0900 hours and 1230 hours during week days.
The Consul-General said members of the public should book for appointments via the consulate’s usual online platforms including Facebook.
“A maximum of 75 clients will be assisted daily at this point. The selection criteria will be on first come first serve basis.
“In addition, the confirmation of appointment should be confirmed at the security checkpoint in order for one to be granted passage into the premises,” she said.
Mrs Chaurura said under the new order, the repatriation of human remains for burial in Zimbabwe will continue to be strictly processed electronically via the existing electronic channels.
She added they would not be entertaining those clients interchanging appointment dates and those coming without prescribed appointments. The diplomat said those Zimbabweans or clients seeking other services should continue using the various official online platforms for communication.
“The appointment system is designed to ensure that clients do not exceed the allowable congregation thresholds at the Consulate, as set by the host Government under social distancing protocols,” said Mrs Chaurura.