During the recent Easter holidays, more than 45,000 individuals traveling between South Africa and Zimbabwe were processed at the Beitbridge Border Post in Musina, Limpopo. As South Africa’s busiest border post, Beitbridge sees around 15,000 people and 500 trucks passing through daily, with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) hinging on the nation’s ability to balance efficient goods flow with careful management and security.
Border posts, particularly Beitbridge, have been notorious for slow processing times, attributed to overburdened infrastructure and staff as well as outdated technology. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa announced plans in March 2020 to construct a 40-kilometer fence between the two countries, with the aim of preventing the entry of undocumented or infected individuals.
However, the border continues to pose challenges for those seeking a better life in South Africa, particularly Zimbabweans who must navigate treacherous crossings along the Limpopo River, facing threats from police or crocodiles. South Africa’s government has taken a tougher stance on undocumented Zimbabweans, offering only a one-year stay for approximately 180,000 individuals holding the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), which expired at the end of December 2021.
Despite these challenges, millions of travelers continue to pass through South African ports of entry, with nearly 3.5 million recorded in August 2017 alone. However, since August 2016, there has been a slight decrease in foreign traveler arrivals and departures. In an effort to address visa issues, illegal migration, and other concerns, South Africa has signed an agreement with Nigeria to establish a Consular Migration Forum where senior officials from both countries meet twice a year.