A news-site’s photo of this weekend’s Beitbridge border queue
After our extra month’s stay during December, for which we’re extremely thankful, the decision was made that we would choose to leave Zimbabwe for a short while whilst we continue to await news of our visa application. We travelled down to South Africa just last week, where we’re spending a few days before taking a few weeks’ holiday.
Calling home on Christmas Day
It was a particularly bad time to be crossing the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. Many people travel during the Christmas period to visit family, plus the new school year starts in January, so returning students were also making the trip. But the extent of this weekend’s congestion made the news, as it was estimated that 20,000 people were crossing each day, compared to the usual 8,000.
Nobody knows how many Zimbabweans are currently living in South Africa, mainly because many have travelled illegally, making dangerous crossings of the Limpopo River in search of greener pastures, streets paved with gold, or just a new start. It’s generally estimated that at least 1million Zimbabweans reside in South Africa, either with or without the relevant documentation. Considering that Zimbabwe’s population is only 12million people, this most conservative of estimates is still staggering.
The process of crossing the border was quite an experience and provided another fascinating insight into the ‘normalities’ of life here in Southern Africa. Our coach took 8.5hours from joining the line of vehicles in Beitbridge (the Zimbabwean border town) at around 8pm, before departing the final customs check in South Africa just before 5am! Men and women; young and old; the infirm; pregnant mothers; and those with babies and children all shuffled along the snaking queue.
This isn’t our photo, but we did see a few vehicles that were nearly this overloaded!
Thankfully for us and our fellow coach-travellers, we were spared the worst of the queueing as we could retreat to the coach to await the next set of checks. Whereas, the line of those who were walking the border seemed to stretch for many kilometres. Apparently, those joining the back of the queue would expect to take 3 days before being able to depart the South African side. Remember that the next time you have to wait at the Post Office!
We were astonished at peoples’ patience and self-control; there was no commotion and very little bustling. People just seemed resigned to the process they had to go through and waited their turn. The whole ordeal appeared to be just another fact of life to be endured. We even heard a man in front of us saying how much things had improved in recent years.
It’s been greatly frustrating that we still have no news regarding our visa, and we’re undecided if it’s reassuring to know that many friends are facing the same predicament. But we continue to ask for patience and trust that God has the bigger picture in hand. The ongoing hiatus has presented us with the opportunity to take some of our holiday allowance, therefore also giving us an unexpected opportunity to visit Lois’ sister and her family in the United States. Our nephew was recently diagnosed with autism, so the chance to spend time with them, as well as Lois’ expertise, is truly a blessing to all concerned.
The contrast in environment is likely to be quite stark, but we’re really looking forward to time with family, a change of scenery and a chance to renew our minds before heading back home to Zimbabwe. I wonder how long the queues will be at the airport in the States…?
With love and blessings,