Hunger and desperation for travellers stranded at Beitbridge

Joseph Chirume

Thousands of travellers are still stranded at the Beitbridge border post where they have been sleeping in the open for four nights. A total of 104 people have tested positive for Covid-19 during the past four days.

Limpopo Health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba said she feared the border could be a superspreader as thousands of people have been stuck at the port of entry for many days and travellers have been advised to quarantine when they reach their destinations.

While accusations and finger pointing is the order of the day, nothing seems to have been done to relieve the plight of the refugees.

Travellers accuse the South African Government of shifting the goalposts and are allowing only people with study, work, residence and business permits into the country. Some of them had valid Covid-19 permits that have now expired while waiting to have their passports stamped.

Dennis Juru, President of the International Cross-Border Traders’ Association said people, women and children in particular, on both sides of the border were facing starvation. He said there were no food outlets and the provision of water was limited. 

“Most of the travellers had their passports stamped by the Zimbabwean government,” said Juru. 

“The South African immigration officers are now only allowing people with valid permits which is a new development.”

He said people are left stranded. 

“They can’t return to Zimbabwe because they don’t have transport money,” he said.

A work permit holder, who has been at the Zimbabwean border post since Thursday night, said the Zimbabwean soldiers were removing traders selling food and water. 

“They say it is in accordance with lockdown regulations,” said the traveller.

“There are thousands of people roaming around with nowhere to go. The toilets are clogged with raw human excrement which is flowing everywhere. The place is a health time bomb.”

Action SA President, Helman Mashaba said that the number one culprit is South African Home Affairs.

“South Africa should not host people from all over when we have 18 million people surviving on social grants and 50% of our own people are unemployed,” he said.

“Zanu PF has destroyed the hopes of its people,” he said.

Juru said the Zimbabwean government wasn’t taking care of its citizens. 

“If South Africa cannot allow them in, Zimbabwe should provide buses to take their citizens home.”