Steep fares leave Zimbabweans stranded in SA

HARARE - Many Zimbabweans in South Africa are yet to return home to celebrate Christmas with their families as bus operators have hiked fares, the Daily News heard yesterday.

People stranded across the Limpopo say they are waiting for reasonable fares for them to come home.

“Ehe askana, tichazouya kumba kana mabhazi adzika nekuti ikezvino vari kudedzera ma R850, hazvishandike nazvo. (Yes, we will come home when they reduce the bus fares, right now they are charging around R850, which is unreasonable,)” Lima Mombe a South Africa-based Zimbabwean said.

Those who came home say they paid R800 as the small-scale bus operators (omalayitsha) are charging an extortionate R1200.

“I decided to use the bus, although it took longer to get home because omalayitsha are now charging up to R1 200,” said Tapera Kadunge, another Zimbabwean working in South Africa.

Parting with a painful R300 is the fate of those who do not have passports.

“Ndakaenda ne dhabulup (border jumping), so when we left Johannesburg the conductor told us we would pay R100, however, at the border, we were told to cough up R300,” said a traveller who preferred anonymity.

Zimbabwe Passengers Association’s secretary-general, Paul Makiwa said operators should desist from overcharging and urged the police to arrest those who increase fares illegally.

Transporters say the police manning roadblocks have increased the amount they charge to operators.

“Where we were paying $10 so that we can transport people, we are now paying $20.

“So imagine there are five roadblocks along the way,” said an operator who spoke to the Daily News.

Meanwhile, a substantial decrease in traffic from South Africa to Zimbabwe at the South African side of the border has been recorded, according to the South African border control agency.

Travellers have complained of strenuous delays on the Zimbabwean side; which they have attributed to harsh searches by the local revenue board, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

In a statement released by the Border Control Operation Coordinating Committee (BCOCC), BCOCC spokesperson Patrick Moeng said traffic on the South African side has eased significantly.

“We have very few buses and vehicles passing through... When I checked at Beitbridge this morning, there were only 19 vehicles waiting to pass the border and that is a large contrast to the last few days,” he said.

The BCOCC is already preparing for another big rush after January 1.

“We are reviewing plans to see how we can improve the roads for the New Year, but the traffic will not have a big effect on South Africa as it will be coming from the other side of the borders,” Moeng said.

It is however, a different scenario on the Zimbabwean side of the divide, as travellers have had to wait for up to eight hours to get revenue clearance into the country.

When the Daily News spoke to travellers who had just arrived from South Africa, they said they encountered delays in the customs section due to vigorous searches by (Zimra) officials, who also mounted countless roadblocks on the way from Beitbridge.

Zimra officials however, attributed delays to the issuing out of vehicle temporary import permits (TIPs) which they said was caused by constant break downs of its computer system.

Last year, the Beitbridge border processed 19 000 vehicles a day but this year, there were around 30 000 vehicles a day, according to BCOCC.

According to Zimbabwe immigration statistics, 37 055 people entered the country through the border post since Saturday.

As a decongestion strategy, the Department of Immigration on the Zimbabwean side created additional counters where travellers are utilising the cubicles situated outside the immigration hall.

The immigration department on the Zimbabwean side also suspended leave and off-days for their staff to help speed up the clearance of travellers during the festive period.

On average the border handles about 8 000 travellers daily with the figures increasing to 20 000 during the peak period such as the festive season.

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