HARARE – It’s no Christmas holiday rush‚ so another explanation had to be found for the delay on the Zimbabwean side of the Beitbridge border post.
“Maybe it’s because of the elections‚” said a 68-year old Harare-based regular traveller who only gave his name as Solly.
Another passenger muttered: “It’s like this: When the elephants fight‚ it is the grass that suffers.”
Black market money changers made the most of the queues‚ weaving through the arrivals with stacks of South African rand and $2 and $5 bond notes‚ offering a rand-dollar exchange rate of 10-1.
Delays on the Zimbabwean customs’ side‚ where buses have to unpack all luggage for random inspections‚ meant it took six hours to cross the border – at least double the usual time.
Baynham Goredema‚ a 40-year-old graphic designer living in Johannesburg‚ had a theory: “Some corrupt officials here maybe don’t want to see the government change‚ so this could be a go-slow.”
Like many other passengers on the Thursday night bus from Johannesburg to Harare‚ Goredema was returning home for Monday’s elections. “It is my civic duty. You can’t complain if you don’t vote‚” he said.
Unlike some of the others‚ he’s staying for the results and hoping to celebrate a win by the MDC’s Nelson Chamisa‚ who is also 40.
This week South Africa’s Home Affairs Department said it had laid on 37 extra border post officials to cope with the expected influx of voters. If there’s a continued frustration of travellers on the Zimbabwean side‚ however‚ this could lead to potentially explosive overcrowding.
Goredema was in Harare on the day the coup d’etat started‚ which saw former president Robert Mugabe being ousted after 38 years. “I was supposed to register for the elections that afternoon‚ after my work presentation‚ but there was so much uncertainty‚” he said.
He postponed his flight so he could register the next day.
Goredema believes a younger generation will rise‚ because 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF no longer has the support it had under Mugabe.
“In the past‚ nobody left Zanu-PF rallies‚ but now they have to stop people from leaving.” Goredema had viral video clips from three gatherings to prove it.
Not all the passengers spoke this openly. A handsome‚ young Johannesburg-based business owner said: “My vote is like my side-chick‚ it is my secret.”
Ken is married‚ so he didn’t give his full name.
He and two buddies wanted to make a road trip for the elections but the car broke down and they opted for the bus. They flew to Zimbabwe to register in December.
“This has cost me quite a bit‚ but I feel that I have to do it‚” Ken said.
Although Mnangagwa declared he was in favour of Zimbabwean expats voting outside the country‚ the Constitutional Court ruled that expenses and logistics didn’t allow for this.
Most of the estimated one million or so Zimbabweans in South Africa‚ however‚ opted to stay away.
Knowledge‚ an Uber driver in his 30s‚ said he was too afraid to return. “I’m from northern Matabeleland‚ that place Mugabe hated. There is nobody from my area to vote for anyway‚” he said. – Times Live