THE movement of cross-border buses transporting Zimbabweans returning from South Africa will with effect from tomorrow be first cleared by the Zimbabwe Embassy in the neighbouring country.
The position was arrived at following an impasse at Beitbridge Border Post between the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and bus operators.
Zimra has been refusing to clear Zimbabweans returning home by buses arguing that they were not clearing cross-border buses yet.
The tax collector said the other problem was that some buses were being used to transport commercial cargo instead of genuine returnees.
In a bid to address the chaos at the border where travellers have been spending a minimum of 11 hours to enter the country, Zimra, Immigration, and Zimbabwe Embassy officials in the neighbouring country held a virtual meeting to resolve operational issues.
Both the local head of immigration, Mr Nqobile Ncube and head Zimra, Mr Innocent Chikuni could not be reached for comment.
However, Zimbabwe’s Consul General to Johannesburg, Mrs Melody Chaurura confirmed the latest position.
“We have had challenges regarding the re-entry of Zimbabweans into our country through Beitbridge due to a number of issues to do with customs,” she said.
Read: 366 Zimbabweabs blocked from entering the country from South Africa
“We then held consultations (on Wednesday) with border stakeholders to understand their challenges and to see how best we can make the process seamless for both our nationals and border agencies.
“As a result, we then came up with the idea of reverting to the lockdown operational procedures whereby the movement of buses would be regulated by the Embassy”.
Mrs Chaurura said under the new system all buses transporting Zimbabweans will have to be cleared by the Embassy regarding the numbers to carry and which days to travel.
This, she said will address issues of planning and predictability considering that the buses were arriving at the border in dozens creating an operational challenge to manage Covid-19 related border protocols.
The Consul-General said they had started with the process of notifying the cross border bus operators on the new regulations.
“The concerns from Zimra were that the buses were not travelling in a planned manner and that they were clogging traffic, carrying commercial cargo instead of the returnees as per the Government position.
“So under the new order the buses’ movement will be regulated and they will be expected to only carry people rather than goods of commercial nature,” said Mrs Chaurura.
Zimbabwe and South Africa closed their land borders in March to contain the spread of the global pandemic.
Only commercial cargo, diplomats on government business and bodies for burial and returning residents were allowed passage through the borders. This saw nearly 11 000 Zimbabweans returning from Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa via Beitbridge Border Post while less than 200 South Africans returned home.
Before the lockdown, Zimbabwe and South Africa’s border processes at least 15 000 travellers, 3000 light vehicles, 200 buses, and 1 300 commercial trucks daily.
South Africa reopened 18 of 35 land borders on 1 October while Zimbabwe will have a phased opening from 1 December.
Private motorists and pedestrians will start first and public transporters will be last in the first quarter of 2021.