Hundreds of Zimbabweans are stranded at the country’s borders and neighboring South Africa and Botswana due to lack of credible COVID-19 test certificates and various documents.
The stranded people include two footballers on their way to join a Palapye-based soccer outfit, informal traders and others returning home after almost nine months living outside the country following the shutting down of the borders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Triange United Football Club player, Agrippa Murimba, and Harare City Football Club’s Raymond Uchena, who are planning to join Morupule Wanderers, told VOA Zimbabwe Service that they have been struck at Botswana’s Ramokgwebana border post for almost two days.
Immigration officials are questioning the validity of their COVID-19 test certificates. Other stuck at the same place are Gertrude Maravanzira, who is intending to visit her husband in Botswana, Walter Mukanga and several others.
Immigration officials declined to comment, referring all questions to the the country’s Minister of Health, Edwin Dikoloti, who stressed that they won’t allow any person to visit Botswana without proper COVID-19 tests.
According to Denis Juru, president of the International Cross Border Traders Association of Zimbabwe, hundreds of people have been turned away at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry with authorities citing lack of authentic COVID-19 tests, improper travel documents and other issues.
Juru said on Tuesday alone, about 622 of the 6,338 Zimbabweans intending to cross the Beitbridge border post were turned away due to lack of proper documentation, including COVID-19 test certificates. At least 230 people faced the same problem at Plumtree border post where 2,148 locals wanted to return home or visit Botswana. At Forbes border post, 531 people failed to produce proper documentation while 314 Zimbabweans were also left stranded at Chirundu border post. There were 38 and 41 such cases at Nyamapanda and Victoria Falls border posts respectively.
Juru told VOA Zimbabwe Service's Livetalk show that “some of the people were just coming (home) without COVID-19 test certificates or a certificate that had expired. A COVID-19 test certificate is only valid for 72 hours, which is three days. So, we advise all travelers to have proper documentation. What they need is very simple as they only need to add a COVID-19 test certificate to the documentation they normally carry when crossing borders.”
Immigration officials in Harare declined to comment.
Shingirai Madondo contributed to this article.