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Returning Zimbabweans Stuck at Beitbridge Border Post

Hundreds of people are stuck at the Beitbridge border post as thousands of Zimbabweans working in South Africa return home for the Christmas holidays.

Travellers say though there is a well-planned and smooth transit process on the South African side, disorder and corruption on the Zimbabwean side is forcing them to spend up to 5 hours before they are cleared.

This is the kind of music you hear from most cars and buses heading to Zimbabwe as thousands of Zimbabweans working in South Africa head home to spend Christmas with families and friends.

Most Zimbabweans have praised the well-planned quick immigration procedures on the South African side of the Beitbridge border post.

The South African authorities have separate queues for travellers using different modes of transport, and as a result Zimbabwean travellers say the immigration procedures are fast and smooth sailing.

South African Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni says they have done their best to make sure there is little inconvenience for the thousands of travellers who are already in the festive mood.

However, travellers have expressed disappointment about what they describe as lack of preparedness on the Zimbabwean side of the border.

John Makhula says her wife and baby were so much frustrated at the border on Sunday that they had to hire a private car from the border to Kwekwe after it became clear that the bus they were travelling in would spend 7 hours before its luggage and passengers were cleared.

Travellers say the chaos and delays have been caused by bundling all travellers in the same queue.

Getrude Dube, who was going back home in Bulawayo on Saturday night, is one of them.

“The border was fully packed with all kinds of travellers including school children and pedestrians. The queues were extremely long. We arrived at the South African side of the border at 1am but we left the Zimbabwean side at 11am. It seems the authorities were overwhelmed by the influx of travellers. It could also be possible that immigration officials were taking their time in processing travelers,” says Dube.

Travellers also alleged rampant corruption as some police officers and immigration officials were reportedly taking bribes from those who wanted to have their papers processed fast and proceed with their journey home in time for Christmas.

Makhula says although the Zimbabwean immigration authorities could have been trying their best to clear the huge volumes of vehicles and people, the chaos and delays have revealed a need for a system upgrade.

Zimbabweans who have been in South Africa without valid passports have also complained of being made to stand in long queues for many hours before being fined R200 each.

The Zimbabwean travellers have also complained of too many police roadblocks that are mounted on all routes from Beitbridge.

Nevertheless, travellers say all the frustration they have met on their way home have not dampened their celebratory spirit and have no doubt that come tomorrow, they will have a merry Christmas with families and friends in Zimbabwe.