All set for re-opening of Zimbabwe borders

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Preparations have been made for private motorists and pedestrians to safely use the land border posts from tomorrow with the deployment of more staff and equipment and strict health safety measures in place.

Zimbabwe has five major border posts at Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, Victoria Falls and Forbes.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care have been testing officials at the border posts for Covid-19 to ensure all workers are fit for duty and a new standard operating procedure has been drawn up to guide the handling of travellers under the new normal.

The preparations comes after Home Affairs Minister, Kazembe Kazembe met his South African counterpart, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi in Beitbridge on Friday last week to ensure procedures on both sides of Zimbabwe’s busiest border post were harmonised before the re-opening of the post tomorrow to pedestrian passenger traffic and private cars.

Buses follow in the first quarter of next year after assessments and in light of required Covid-19 preventative measures.

Beitbridge used to clear seven million travellers a year before the Covid-19 restrictions.

When The Herald visited the border post yesterday, workmen were busy placing signs to direct visitors on how they are supposed to move around the border post and hand basins for sanitisation had also been placed at strategic places around the immigration  halls.

Cabinet recently approved the re-opening of the land borders to people traffic starting with private motorists and pedestrians and with public transport at some stage in the first quarter of next year.

Department of Immigration’s spokesperson Mrs Memory Mugwagwa said the department was hard at work to ensure a seamless passage of travellers at Beitbridge.

“We have recalled to work all those immigration officers who had been exempted from duty to curb the spread of Covid-19,” she said.

“Team building and re-orientation to Covid-19 preventative measures recommended by the World Health Organisation is being effected.”

Adequate protective clothing and equipment for immigration officers to cover the anticipated traffic had been acquired. All immigration officers will be on duty from Tuesday and all leave days and off days have been cancelled until the peak period is over.

“In addition, the Immigration (computerised) system has been serviced in preparation for the re-opening of the border. Compliance teams who will be executing enforcement duties involving close contact with travellers have been adequately oriented on social distancing and case handling,” said Mrs Mugwagwa.

The installation of multiple test sites to decongest the single Covid-19 checkpoint on the bridge and construction of wheel baths, she said, is pending.

Mrs Mugwagwa said port’s health teams were implementing separate screening points for ease of doing business at the border.

It is also understood that those in security services have since been deployed to prevent touts, bogus agents and vendors from entering the border arena.

Zimra spokesperson Mr Francis Chimanda said the authority had pitched a tent in the holding bay and addressed network connectivity to allow processing of ETIPs. More receipting points for payments and the provision of additional computers, and the deployment of relief staff, had been done.

A holding area to clear private vehicles through an established and dedicated route for ease of movement has been created.

“The continuous disinfections at serving points in the yard for travelling clients and Zimra staff is very critical,” he said. “Currently we are implementing a regulated model for the movement of cross-border buses as agreed between transporters and the Zimbabwe Consular-General in South Africa.

“Further, there are new scales of fines imposed on errant bus operators, clearing agents and transporters to deter would-be offenders.

Elsewhere, the Head of Immigration at Plumtree, Mr Blessing Marwa, said they had mobilised more manpower to boost their staff and procured the requisite Covid-19 protective wear.

“We are being pro-active and tying all loose ends to ensure that we are not found wanting. The deployment of a standby ambulance, setting up of a holding bay, allocation of escort vehicles is pending,” said Mr Marwa.

He said they were finalising the procedure to escort and quarantine those who will present Covid-19-related symptoms upon arrival at the border post.

In Chirundu, regional immigration officer Mr Joshua Chibundu said they were ready to open the border.

“We are ready in terms of Government’s position that borders open on December 1 for vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” said Mr Chibundu.

“We can safely say that in the absence of some unforeseen circumstances we are ready to handle traffic.” – Herald