Harare - In a world without COVID-19, Beitbridge Border Post is the busiest inland crossing in Africa.
The port that gives Africa’s second largest economy, South Africa, access to the wider SADC region through Zimbabwe. On a good day, the port handles approximately 30,000 people and at least 500 trucks.
But there have been no good days since the novel coronavirus made landfall in Africa in March and borders across the continent were sealed for all human traffic and commerce except for the most essential goods and services.
Authorities, however, anticipate brighter days ahead, with a return to the halcyon days when Beitbridge was congested and they had to deal with the complaints of thousands of truckers ad travellers.
In anticipation of a post-corona revival, Zimbabwe’s Department of Immigration is pushing for the formal opening of two new border posts with South Africa: one at Shashe, 120km west of Beitbridge Town; and another at Tshituripasi, 125km east of the border town.
Shashe was established in 2007 to facilitate movement of participants in the annual Wild Run and Tour de Tuli. Tour de Tuli attracts 500 visitors, while Wildrun attracts 80, with the two events held within three months of each other.
Now authorities believe Shashe should be formally established as an inland port.
During a recent tour of Beitbridge by Zimbabwean legislators, assistant regional immigration officer Mr Nqobile Ncube said establishment of the new border posts would reduce smuggling and irregular migration.
Mr Ncube said the borders should be set up in the mould of Maitengwe, Mpoengs and Mlambapele, which Zimbabwe shares with Botswana.
“We are concerned with cases of illegal crossing on the flanks of the legal border,” said Mr Ncube. “Such a scenario is not good in terms of security and the country being able to collect revenue through imports/exports which are leaking via the many non-formal entry/exit points.”
Mr Ncube said in some instances, those living along the border areas did not see the need to travel for more than 100km or 200km to gain legal access, hence the need to formalise the already existing points.
He said Shashe would cater for people visiting the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-Frontier conservation area which includes Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe; while Tshituripasi would cater for locals, traffic to western Zimbabwe and to the Greater Limpopo Trans-Frontier Conservation Area, which includes Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
“We have had to use these borders during major annual tourism events, albeit on a temporary basis and that has been done successfully. We have seen it, we can manage. This will be a relief to Beitbridge, which clears about a million people every month,” Mr Ncube explained.