01.07.2012

Beitbridge - Zimbabwe’s Most Notorious Border Crossing


Being the only border crossing with South Africa it can hardly be avoided, though rumors have it that some tourists even drive a long detour through Botswana and enter Zimbabwe via Plumbtree, just to do so.

No, we did not pay any of the “runners” who get your documents ahead in the long queue at customs, all under the watchful eyes of a so called security person. Besides, by the times we had figured out the scam, we were too angry for deals. Even without paying the touts we had to flash money left and right, all kinds of taxes, visa and insurance…

It almost seems that things are kept confusing on purpose: Heidi lined up where it said “Carbon Tax” only to be told 45 minutes later that she was in the wrong line. Another hour later, she was able to pay both, Carbon Tax and the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) needed for all cars.

In the meantime, Gilles was dealing with a guy selling 3rd party insurance, having no idea whether the quote was anywhere realistic. Well, it seems it was not… Not that we came unprepared, we knew about all the requirements, but ended up totally overwhelmed. Our ranting and loud complaining about the touts sneaking ahead of us did not upset anybody, but also did not speed up the procedure. An entire four hours we spent in there! And yes, avoid early morning: it seems to be a very busy time.

There is also room for humor, the stained walls are plastered we posters saying “We do not service touts”. Five different email addresses are listed where complaints can be made. Unfortunately, we did not dare taking photo of this laughable attempt to curb corruption.

To be fair, immigration was simply swift and other borders crossings are supposedly fast and easy. Besides, there was a time when crossing this border had truly been dramatic. During the dark days, thousands of Zimbabweans swam, waded across the crocodile-infested Limpopo River every week. Separating the two countries, the river was soon likened to the Rio Grande. This has changed, however: now South Africa accepts immigration from Zimbabwe rather then prevents it. Moreover, Zimbabweans do not see the desperate need to run anymore.