Saturday 23 December 2023


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.

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. Sunday Mail


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