The Sunday Mail
GOVERNMENT has deployed inspection teams to assess the situation at border posts ahead of the gradual reopening of ports of entry to passenger traffic.
Cabinet last week resolved to send teams to all borders to assess the state of readiness and recommend interventions after taking input from stakeholders.
Only commercial cargo, diplomats on Government business and returning residents are presently allowed free passage.
The Sunday Mail understands that inspection teams comprising senior civil servants from various ministries will visit Beitbridge, Forbes, Chirundu, Kariba, Victoria Falls, Kazungula and Nyamapanda border posts.
Speaking during a tour of Beitbridge Border Post, team leader Mr Stewart Nyakotyo said their mission involves taking submissions and assessing current operations.
“We have started engaging various stakeholders at Beitbridge border post to assess the resources, operations, proposals, state of manpower, proposed timeframes for reopening, current operational challenges and what they need to get things moving,” he said.
“After that we are going to have a practical feel on the ground of what they have and the shortcomings.
“We will then make recommendations to the National Covid-19 Taskforce, which will then merge our findings and recommendations with those from other teams.
During consultations, stakeholders proposed that Government should consider a phased reopening that begins with private vehicles. The immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said:
“It is only prudent to go with the phased route considering the current state of affairs here, where we are battling with commercial trucks with South Africa having re-opened their borders.
“You will note that in 2019, we cleared 5,3 million people at this border, with 14 000 passing daily, and we could have more people if we open at full throttle considering that people have not been moving for over six months.”
He said successfully reopening land borders will depend on Government’s commitment and availability of resources to attend to all safety measures as proposed by stakeholders. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) shift manager Mr Jericho Rundogo said current civil works to upgrade the border had left them with limited space to operate, prompting the need to stagger the reopening.
“Currently, we are using private cars and bus lanes to clear commercial cargo. Imagine what will happen if we open full scale? So our proposal is, let’s have small or private cars which are easy to manage to come through and we look at public transport after the festive season to avoid chaos,” he said.
In their contributions, health officials said they were still in discussions with four private laboratories who want to set up shop in the town to boost Covid-19 testing capacity for travellers.
More PCR testing and automated screening machines have since been requested to boost service delivery and minimise delays at the port of entry.
Zimbabwe closed its borders in March this year as part of measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.