For all intents and purposes the Beitbridge border post is still closed to pedestrian and passenger vehicle traffic until tomorrow. 1 December was set as the official reopening date by the Zimbabwean government. Despite still battling a surge in COVID-19 cases, South Africa had already reopened their side of the border. The fact that the borders are technically closed hasn’t stopped the flow of traffic between South Africa and Zimbabwe though.

Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industry is in the doldrums. This means that the country now relies heavly upon South African made goods. Towns like Musina rely heavily on Zimbabwean purchases and for a bribe security officials on both sides of the border are quite happy to look the other way and not bother those who use illegal crossing points. It typically costs about R300 to be ferried to and from Musina including boat and transport costs for your goods.

So what is the government’s strategy to solving the illegal crossing problem? Like always they are waiting for the rains which will make it hard or even impossible for people to use some of the crossing points. They are hoping the danger will be enough to deter people from using these points.

Basically, what we have been trying to do for the past two weeks is to retain and reinforce the integrity and sterility of the border by ensuring that all the relevant flow process protocols are adhered to.

Our enforcement and compliance team has been on the ground every day, focusing on specific red zones that have been picked and our greatest worry now is the porous points along the Limpopo River.

For now, we pray for a relief from above, because once it starts raining, most of those illegal crossing points will be closed off. We will continue running those operations.

Assistant Regional Immigration Officer in Charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube

The rains will not change a thing

Here is the thing though, the rains are unlikely to stem the illegal crossings because the border is being officially re-opened on the 1st of December. It simply means people will now pay their bribes to the officers manning the border posts and use the bridge to cross instead. Ironically it’s even cheaper to cross the border using official crossing points as one only needs about R100 to be waived through. This was before the pandemic forced the closing of borders though so we are not sure what the new fee will be but experience has shown that there will be an affordable fee that security forces will charge to supplement their meagre earnings.

As with all things, the human aspect of the equation is going to defeat this strategy.