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Omalayitsha block the Limpopo Bridge in protest

by Staff reporter
16 Feb 2021 at 20:04hrs | Views
THERE was a two-hour standoff between border authorities from Zimbabwe and South Africa when scores of cross-border transporters, commonly known as omalayitsha, were refused entry into the country due to lockdown protocols.

Under the country's Covid-19 lockdown regulations, only commercial cargo, diplomats on Government business, bodies for burial, light commercial trucks (15 tonnes), foreigners legally resident in Zimbabwe, and returning residents are allowed to enter via the land borders.

On the departure side, only Zimbabweans who are legally resident in foreign countries, foreigners, commercial and transit cargo is permitted to exit.

South Africa reopened its borders to passenger travel on Monday, but Zimbabwe's borders remain partially closed until further notice.

Things got to heated yesterday when the South Africans allowed omalayitsha to depart their country although Zimbabwe's position had been fully communicated to them through the inter border agencies.

When a news crew arrived at the border, scores of omalayitsha in at least 50 South African registered vehicles had blocked traffic going into either side, refusing to comply with Zimbabwe's position.

"I have already paid for the gate passes and the temporary import permits and insurance fees to enter Zimbabwe, but we were turned away by border authorities.

"This is an inconvenience, most of us had assumed the border operations had been synchronized. Now we have to go back to Gauteng," said a distraught Mr Nehemiah Nyathi.

Another malayitsha, identified only as Nicholas, said he was in a quandary after the South Africans refused to process their re-entry into the neighbouring country.

"We are stuck at the bridge. South Africa says they cannot allow us to re-enter with the nature of goods we are carrying," said Nicholas.

Other cross-border transporters vowed to stay put on the bridge until Zimbabwean and South African authorities reached a consensus. At the height of the mini-crisis, South African border authorities had tied a rope at the centre of the New Limpopo Bridge (NLB) arguing that they would not release or accept any traffic from Zimbabwe.

After two hours of contestations, Zimbabwean security agents took control of the situation forcing the South Africans and omalayitsha to give in.

"The position is very clear on who is permitted to use the land border and under that category we don't have omalayitsha.

We haven't had issues with commercial traffic, returning residents or light commercial traffic," said a Zimbabwean border official who preferred anonymity. The standoff at the bridge worsened the long delays being experienced by commercial truck drivers who are spending at least three days to leave the neighbouring country.

According to truck drivers, the border congestion had increased as many trucks now prefer using Zimbabwe as a transit route over Botswana.

"We are having a lot of trucks coming through this border and hence the delays. Many truck drivers are avoiding Botswana, where authorities in that country are doing mandatory Covid-19 retesting.

"Even if you have the clearance, the Tswanas prefer to do their own test. So many people avoid this process," said Mr Edward Sibanda.

He said to speed up the flow of traffic, border authorities must separate traffic into local and transit to avoid holding up trucks unnecessarily at the border. Another driver, Mr Kajah Ndimo said the delays at the border should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"Imagine spending a day to move for just 3km. Authorities must act on this issue," he said.

Mr Peacemaker Muhenyeri, another driver, said truckers were incurring additional costs in parking charges due to the long delays.

An average of 800 commercial, 50 light commercial and 15 buses have been using Beitbridge to cross into either South Africa or Zimbabwe daily in the last four days.

Source - online

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