PLUMTREE Border Post has recorded a slump in the number of travellers passing through it this festive season compared to previous years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
An average of 1 000 people are crossing to Zimbabwe from Botswana daily since the peak of the festive season starting last Thursday.
The figures drastically dropped compared to an average of 6 000 travellers that were passing through the border on the busiest days in past seasons.
Authorities said the decrease in the number of travellers could be attributed to the US$60 needed for Covid-19 certificates required before one embarks on a cross border journey.
A Chronicle news crew visited the port of entry yesterday and observed only a handful of people leaving the country while others returned home.
Less traffic has become convenient for travellers who said immigration and customs officials were processing and clearing them quickly as opposed to the previous years when the entry point would be heavily congested.
One of the travellers said within an hour she had been cleared, a break from the past when she could be stuck at the border for up to five hours, especially on the Botswana side.
The situation at Plumtree Border Post is in total contrast with what is happening at Beitbridge Border Post where travellers are spending days at the entry point before they are cleared.
Plumtree Border Post Assistant Regional Immigration officer Mr Terence Njagu said the border was smoothly operating owing to the cooperation between Zimbabwe’s immigration officials and their Botswana counterparts.
He said a drastic decrease in the number of people using the border post had been recorded compared to the same period last year.
“As you are aware during this year, we have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and things have not been the same. People have been coming since the reopening of the borders at the beginning of the month after it was closed for almost six months. However, as from the 17th the figures have been picking up. Our figures are now averaging from 600 to 1 000 entries and exits per day. But normally during this time, entries would be more than exits,” he said.
“If you compare this year’s statistics to previous years, the figures have significantly dropped. During the same period last year, we were receiving between 2 500 and 6 000 travellers per day. So, this time around we are receiving about a fifth of what we expect.”
Mr Njagu said officials on several occasions have been forced to turn away those who intend to travel with fake Covid-19 certificates although the cases are not highly prevalent.
He commended the Government for reopening borders saying this has given an opportunity for those with resources to reconnect with their families after being closed out for a long period.
Some of the travellers at the border post said they were excited to be returning home after being locked down since April.
Mr Zenzo Nkomo said he used to travel back home every three months before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Mr Nkomo said the pandemic affected his physical contact with his family and he could not wait to embrace them in his arms.
“I have complied with all the necessary procedures including testing to ensure that I’m Covid-19 free before coming back home. My family is based in Zimbabwe so it’s a big relief to go back home and I’m looking forward to reuniting with my family although we have been in constant communication,” said Mr Nkomo.
A cross border trader Ms Gondai Pachiti, who was travelling to Chipinge in Manicaland said since the border reopened there has been less human traffic allowing them to be cleared in record time.
“Even the officials are strict in terms of implementing Covid-19 prevention measures. They demand Covid-19 certificates, ensure that there is social distancing within the premises and that we properly wear our masks while conducting temperature checks. If we all adhere to set regulations, we could help contain the virus even when we travel across the border.
There are few travellers so we are quickly cleared and I’m happy with the way we have been handled so far by the officials,” said Ms Pachiti.
A cross border driver Mr Thulani Nkomazi said he was relieved to discover that the Plumtree Border Post was not congested and he was cleared within 30 minutes of arrival as opposed to what is obtaining at the Beitbridge Border Post.
He said crossing the border on time would allow him to deliver Christmas goodies to families of his clients on time in Mangwe district. — @nqotshili