A massive deployment of more immigration officers by South Africa at the Beitbridge Border Post helped clear congestion that had stuck for a week as thousands of Zimbabweans living and working down south headed back.
Although traffic backed up for more than 10km on Monday, the situation was completely different on Tuesday after Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi protested the situation to his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor.
Travelers had blamed slow processing by South African immigration and customs officials for the backlog that almost sparked riots.
But after Mohadi’s protestations on behalf of the Zimbabwean government, the congestion had disappeared on Tuesday.
“The line started moving really fast late on Monday and I got processed around 2AM,” said motorist Saziso Ndebele who had been stuck at the border for three days.
“Apparently, South Africa had beefed up its immigration crews, and it was just amazing how quickly thousands of cars started moving all of a sudden.
“South Africa should have done that in the first place; all the congestion and suffering they subjected us to was uncalled for and absolutely unnecessary,” Ndebele added.
Beitbridge is the busiest border post in Southern Africa, handling about 9,000 travelers into South Africa in a single ordinary day. But officials say the figure soars to over 25,000 during holidays.
It also handles 2,000 small cars and 1,500 mostly commercial haulage trucks daily during peak days.
Speaking about his phone call with Pandor, Mohadi said earlier: “We had a discussion this morning with Minister Pandor over the terrible situation at Beitbridge.”
“She indicated that they will immediately deploy more immigration officers to the border and open up more clearing points at their side of the border [adding that] they had not anticipated the volume of traffic to increase judging from the previous experience.”