gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); 200 000 back home for Christmas – The Zimbabwe Mail

200 000 back home for Christmas

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MORE than 220 000 people have flocked into the country over the last week for the festive season, marking a significant surge in arrivals compared to last year when the Government began scaling down stringent entry regulations imposed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Statistics from the Immigration Department show that 223 698 people entered the country in the six days between 15 and 21 December, a development expected to boost tourism and inject renewed cheer into the holiday season.

Over the same period, 104 487 exited the country through official ports.

Last year, 281 715 inbound travellers used official ports of entry in the 20 days between 1 and 21 December.

This year, the country’s busiest port of entry, the Beitbridge Border Post, had cleared 188 437 inbound travellers by Thursday, while an additional 137 954 were given the greenlight to exit.

Over the same period, the Immigration Department cleared 9 501 inbound travellers and 8 862 exiting travellers through the north-western region ports — Victoria Falls International Airport, Kazungula and Pandamatenga.

A total of 9 944 travellers entered the country through the Forbes Border Post, while 9 307 were given clearance to exit.

Beitbridge Border Post

In an interview, chief immigration officer Ms Respect Gono said the department had beefed up staff at all ports of entry and exit.

“Usually, during the festive season, there is a lot of traffic, but we are ready to welcome Zimbabweans back home,” she said.

“Quite a number of Zimbabweans are coming back.

“We have beefed up our manpower so that we efficiently assist travellers so that they won’t be delayed in long queues.”

Ms Gono said the upgrade and modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post had significantly reduced congestion at the facility.

“We are still clearing passengers manually before the launch of the Online Border Management System, but we are ready to serve passengers,” she said.

“No one is going to suffer because we are ready to serve each and every Zimbabwean coming back home or even our visitors. You may be aware that the upgrade of Beitbridge means we have three terminals that clear traffic differently.”

Three separate terminals for freight, buses and private cars/pedestrians were constructed.

This, Ms Gono said, has also helped ease congestion, allowing the smooth movement of people and vehicles.

The parking areas were expanded for vehicles of all types, while an automated clearing system was installed for faster clearance of goods.

Last week, the Beitbridge Border Post was a hive of activity, as thousands of north and south-bound travellers passed through it.

Queues of buses, small vehicles and haulage trucks snaked through the port, as travellers underwent formal clearance processes.

Vendors were recording brisk business, making numerous trips to Musina, South Africa, to replenish their stock.

Regional immigration officer (Southern Region) Mr Joshua Chibundu said: “We have an increase in the number of people using the border and the numbers have increased over the past week. This can be attributed to the festive season.”

He added: “Following the modernisation of the border post, it has been relatively easy for us to deal with the increase in numbers during the festive season. The border post is now divided into sections . . . , making the process seamless and very fast.”

Meanwhile, travellers from South Africa will have to fork out more than they budgeted for as the fares of buses shot up as the festive season started with many operators having increased with tickets being pegged to a high of close to R1 500 per trip.

Ordinarily a trip to South Africa costs around R700.

Operators interviewed said they had since increased fares for those coming from South Africa to as much as R1 500 and after New Year, because of the influx of people going back to the neighbouring country, they will increase fares for the trip to South Africa.

“We are charging R700 to South Africa but we have since raised that to R1 200 as many people will be returning soon after the New Year. It is the peak period so this is what happens,” said an operator from Brooklyn Express.

The operators encouraged travellers to check fares of return tickets just before they return to South Africa to avoid last-minute rushes and price shocks.

Delta Coaches said their fares to South Africa is currently R700 and will increase as soon as the holiday ends although they never mentioned how much the buses will cost in January 2024.

Another new player in the market Katiso Lux, is charging R1 300 from Johannesburg while a trip to South Africa is R700.

Mzansi Express, a popular option with travellers, said a trip to Johannesburg from Bulawayo is pegged at R700 until Christmas Day as they will raise fees to R900. Those coming from Johannesburg to Bulawayo will have to fork out R1 400 for a single trip.

Local transport operators also raised their fares at the beginning of the festive season with many doubling as travellers make last-minute travels.

Buses on the Bulawayo-Nkayi route raised their fares from US$10 to US$20 for a single trip while buses plying the Bulawayo-Kezi route are now charging US$5 up from US$3.

Source: Sunday News