South African immigration authorities remain clueless on how to stop a rising death toll at the Beitbridge entry point which has reached 15 dead on the country’s northern border with Zimbabwe, a freight official has confirmed.The latest to die on Thursday were four truck drivers who were waiting to make the Limpopo River crossing at Beitbridge – South Africa’s busiest land entry point, Road Freight Association chief executive Gavin Kelly said, without giving the cause of death for the drivers.
The border traffic at Beitbridge has been at a standstill for over five days, stretching to as far down as Musina town, 14 km away from the crossing point.
According to the border officials, Covid-19 checks were exacerbating the long delays that have plagued the crossing which has seen 15 people die — 11 of them dying earlier this week — while waiting to cross into neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Chairperson of the Beitbridge Transport and Clearing Agency Association, Eugene Khoza, said the situation would have eased if the border post was operating on a 24-hour basis – as it is done normally.
However, Police Minister Bheki Cele ordered the closure of the immigration post for six hours daily from 10pm (2000 GMT) to 4am.
“This order has affected us in a big way. This is because officials from the South African Revenue Service, Police Department and Immigration Department who man the various offices here do not arrive for work on time,” Khoza said.
While the implementation of Cele’s order has resulted in the current congestion, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the truck drivers themselves were responsible for the problems.
According to Motsoaledi, most truck drivers did not have the documentation required to cross the border and were, therefore, blocking all other travellers who are ready to cross with the relevant documents.
“If you go to Beitbridge now, our people are idling there at the border because the theatre of war is not at the border with customs or Home Affairs.
“It’s on the road where the truckers have blocked each other because they don’t have documents to present to pass through. Let the truck drivers return to Musina to obtain the documents…to free the road for other travellers,” the minister said.