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SA enforces stringent controls at Beitbridge border as Zimbabweans return after festive season

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Stringent measures are being enforced at the Beitbrige border post as thousands of Zimbabweans return to South Africa after the festive season.

The Border Management Authority (BMA) said that the measures being adopted would ensure Zimbabweans returning to South Africa had the proper documentation.

It said by by Thursday nearly 40 000 people had entered the country’s borders, with numbers expected to increase on Friday. More than 4 000 people had also been intercepted while attempting to illegally enter without proper documentation.

BMA commissioner Mike Masiapato said that the key focus was on documentation.

“We are making sure that everybody who enters here for processing purposes are people who already have the correct documentation to enter South Africa. We have to use that approach so that we don’t have people in South Africa who don’t have documentation. It’s the people without proper documentation that are involved in criminal activities.”

Masiapato added that the measures were in place for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic coming through the border post.

“We also have deployments on the borderline where we have border guards deployed strategically in areas and also members of the SANDF so we don’t get people entering South Africa illegally.”

Masiapato said that during the festive season, more than 400 000 people were processed leaving South Africa into Zimbabwe.

“We are starting the return phase. We are also keeping an eye on the smuggling of illicit cigarettes.”

Masiapato said they managed to ensure an increased deployment of officials at the Beitbridge border following increased attempts by travellers trying to enter South Africa illegally.

He added the Beitbridge border as well as Lebombo and Maseru border posts were the most congested as foreign nationals return to South Africa.

“We have led operations at Beitbridge and we had three key roadblocks 3km from Beitbridge and another one 10km from that border. The last one was 30km from Beitbridge. All of those road blocks are intended to intercept anyone who might try to cross into the country illegally.

“To this point, we can indicate that the deployments are on the ground according to our deployment plan as we continue the operations,” Masiapato said.

Members of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), including party leaders Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene, have taken it upon themselves to prevent returning Zimbabweans from entering South Africa through illegal means.

On videos on social media, members of the party were seen telling those using the Limpopo River as a port of entry to turn back. In one of the videos, a man in cycling gear and carrying a bicycle is seen being turned back.

McKenzie said it has become easy for undocumented immigrants to cross into South Africa undetected.

“I am proud of members of the PA for giving up holiday time to come and stop them from entering our country illegally,” McKenzie said on X (formerly Twitter).

Party deputy president Kunene told the SABC that the country needed to tighten its border management as the borders have become porous.

“People are coming in as they please because the country has porous borders and our government is not doing anything about it. We need at least 8000 soldiers to marshal our borders and our government is failing us,” he said.

Nicholas Mabhena, executive director of Africa Diaspora Forum, said it was important for people to have the relevant documentation.

“We have been indicating that when you get to the border you must have all your documents.

“For instance if you are on permanent residency, you can’t go to the border carrying only your passport. You need to carry your ID and relevant certificate.

Commissioner of the Border Management Authority, Dr Michael Masiapato. Picture: Border Management Authority

“If you are on a Zimbabwe exemption permit, your permit will be in your old passport. You have to carry your two passports. We have had instances where people forget to carry their old passports and then they have to wait three days at the border as they won’t be allowed to enter South Africa.”

Meanwhile, the national transport department expressed their major concern over festive season driver behaviour, which has resulted in the loss of many lives.

“The main cause of crashes has also been the moving traffic violations by drivers, such as overtaking on the barrier line, overspeeding beyond speed limits and not wearing seat belts.

“It can therefore not be overemphasised that the rules of the road must be adhered to at all times. With road users making their way back, they must also ensure that they rest after every two hours or 200kms of driving because fatigue is also another silent killer,” said transport department spokesperson Collen Msibi.

He said the overall statistics will be released by Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga later this month once they were done with the consolidation of numbers from the provinces and municipalities.