THE volume of traffic has increased at Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts while Renkini Long Distance Bus Terminus in Bulawayo was yesterday teeming with activity as scores of travellers jostled to catch buses to travel to various destinations ahead of Christmas.
Some companies closed on Wednesday for the annual Christmas holiday shutdown.
The number of travellers using Beitbridge Border Post increased as Zimbabweans based in Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa return home for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Border authorities said there is a seamless flow of traffic following the separation of traffic into commercial, buses and light vehicles and passengers’ terminals.
In addition, most services have been automated to minimise human interface between travellers and border agencies.
The Government and the ZimBorders Consortium have completed transforming the border post at a cost of US$300 million under a Build,Operate and Transfer partnership.
The acting head of immigration at Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Trustworthy Manatsire said so far a total of 329 302 travellers passed through the border between December 1 and December 21.
A total of 191 910 arrivals were recorded while 137 392 people left the country.
“The situation is still under control and we are co-ordinating well with other border agencies and making adjustments depending on the context of the issues on the ground,” said Mr Manatsire.
At Plumtree Border Post there was also a hive of activity as travellers, mostly Zimbabweans working in neighbouring Botswana, flocked back home, some for the first time in two years due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The global outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 prompted several countries to impose lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain the pandemic.
Most countries, including Zimbabwe, have since relaxed the restriction resulting in an increase in the volume of traffic passing the country’s borders.
The easing of travel restrictions and scrapping of the need for travellers to produce polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests among other requirements at entry points has seen more diasporans returning home. Some of the travellers could not hide their excitement as they completed immigration and customs formalities.
Mr George Ndlovu who is based in Gaborone, Botswana, said he had not been able to visit his home since January 2020.
“Everyone has had challenges with travelling. The last time I was in Zimbabwe was in 2020 in January and I have not been here again. It has been difficult to move around,” he said.
“It is a good thing to come back home and reunite with family after such a long period.”
Another traveller, Ms Limukani Mpofu from Tshitshi area in Mangwe District said she was excited to be back home to see her parents.
Ms Mpofu is based in South Africa but travelled back home via Botswana.
“I’m just happy being back at home. The last time I was home was two years back before the outbreak of Covid-19. And this is my first time coming back home and I really missed my parents,” she said.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Ms Mpofu would visit the country twice a year.
Mr Butholezwe Sithole of Tshitshi Village in Mangwe said he was also happy to be back home.
“I was in the country last year and I’m happy to be back. I will be looking forward to seeing my family and my parents whom I have not seen in a year,” he said.
Efforts to obtain statistics were futile as the responsible authorities were not available.
At Renkini, there was commotion as travellers jostled to catch buses. Some transport operators plying rural routes have increased fares to capitalise on an increase in the number of people travelling to their homes to spend Christmas with their families.
A snap survey by Chronicle yesterday revealed that buses plying the Bulawayo-Nkayi route are now charging 150 rand for a single trip from 120 rand while those using kombis have to part with at least 120 rand from 100 rand for the same distance.
Kombis plying the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho route charge 70 rand. Previously they charged 50 rand. Buses are charging 100 rand for a trip from Bulawayo to Lupane while those travelling to Binga will have to fork out 200 rand from 150 rand for a single trip.
A trip to Halisupe in Gwanda district and Maphisa in Matobo district now costs 100 rand from 80 rand.
Bus conductors and kombi drivers said this year the number of travellers went up compared to the previous year during the same period.
“This time demand is high and we are handling a huge influx of people travelling home for Christmas. Because of demand, we slightly increased the fares, which is what we normally do during this period,” said Mr Nkululeko Moyo who plies the Bulawayo-Maphisa route.
Bus operators under the banner, Zimbabwe Passenger Transporters Organisation (ZPTO), met the police, Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) and other stakeholders last week met and deliberated on strategies to reduce road accidents during this festive season.
Health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya urged members of the public to be wary of Covid-19 during the festive season following reports of new variants being recorded elsewhere.
The Government has warned the public that the country is recording a spike in Covid-19 cases calling on members of the public to remain vigilant.