A VIOLENT thunderstorm that lashed Beitbridge put smiles on hundreds of travellers stuck at the South African border after officials hurriedly cleared them fearing a disaster.
Most Zimbabweans have been stranded at the border, with South Africa employing delaying tactics, including rejecting COVID-19 certificates produced elsewhere.
On Tuesday night, nature stepped in when the hundreds of travellers cleared on the Zimbabwean side but stuck on the South African side, were hurriedly cleared.
The heavy storm, which plunged Beitbridge into darkness, started at midnight and lasted more than an hour before diminishing into showers that lasted until morning.
“Officials began to let them in for shelter and an arrangement was made to have them cleared into South Africa,” said an official on the South African side yesterday.
“We expect to finish this queue today before cut off time. We realised most people who were stuck in no-man’s land were waiting for buses and we cleared the buses into South Africa. There were about 50 buses, which translates to about 3 000 people,” said regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge, Nqobile Ncube.
Strict scrutiny of travellers and total disregard of other countries’ COVID-19 certificates by South African officials have been blamed for the delays that have seen some people spend a week in queues before entering South Africa.
South Africa, after the new lockdown downgraded to level three, has stopped international travel by road and insists that only those with resident, education and workers’ permits enter the country where a new COVID-19 variant is ripping that nation apart.
Meanwhile, stranded travellers have left Beitbridge in a mess after using the bush as toilet during the days they were in queues.
Some even relieved themselves on the bridge.
This happened as South Africans took a swipe at their Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi for the escalating crisis at the region’s busiest border post.
Political leaders in that country want both presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Emmerson Mnangagwa to step in and solve the problem that has seen people queueing for more than a week.
On Twitter, Economic Freedom Fighters spokesman and parliamentarian Mbuyiseni Ndlozi questioned Mnangagwa’s absence from the frontline.
According to TimesLIVE, Ndlozi slammed Mnangagwa, saying he should stop “grandstanding on Twitter”.
Mnangagwa is on leave and one of his two deputies, Kembo Mohadi, is in charge.
Ndlozi, who on Tuesday rejected calls for the border to be closed claiming that it would be “inhumane” and “breed a worse humanitarian crisis than COVID-19”, asked Ramaphosa to intervene.
Social media user Jonathan Jansen, who also reacted to the crisis, said: “Dear President Ramaphosa, please say something about Beitbridge. Show that you are concerned about this unfolding humanitarian crisis. Please speak for us.”
Motsoaledi could spark a diplomatic row after he accused Zimbabwean soldiers and policemen at the border of being corrupt.