A Slow Crossing

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Zimbabwe – December 2018

We’re told to get to the Zimbabwe border early as it can get rather busy. It opens at 7 a.m., so we’re up early and on our way to arrive before 8 a.m. There are a number of buildings at the border, but we make our way to the one for visitors requiring a visa. We’re in need of KAZA Visas, which allows for unlimited entries and exits between Zimbabwe and Zambia, where we plan to pop into in a few days. However, this type of visa can only be acquired at the border and they have been known to run out.

We’re one of the first in line, though there’s no one else around. I confirm that the border opens at 7 a.m. and stare at the locked doors and windows of the building before us. Around 8:15 a.m., three officials approach our building, enter, and open three of the windows. Now we’ll get moving, I think. With three windows open, they should be able to quickly accommodate the growing number of people behind us. Only this is not the case. First, it’s after 8:30 a.m. that the officials start to work. Second, everyone must visit the middle window to be processed, one at a time. If they need a typical tourist visa, they then move to the window on the left; if they need a KAZA Visa, then they move to the window on the right. At least this gives me hope that they have KAZA Visas.

Once the process starts, I time how long it takes to process someone, which seems to be around ten minutes. I learn why when it’s my turn. The middle official needs to complete a third-page form that is then given to one of the officials on either side of him. When I’m up, he had just completed the third of three forms on the prior page, so now he flips to a new page and carefully positions a piece of carbon paper between it and the duplicate form below. Once everything is lined up, he takes my passport and begins to complete my form. He writes slowly and deliberately, and, when finished, very slowly tears the form along the perforated lines. Once the form is free, he lifts the carbon paper and checks that every letter and number from the top form has been copied exactly to the form below. I’m beginning to miss the German efficiency of Namibia.

As I’ve asked for a KAZA Visa, my form is passed to the official on the right. It’s been a while since someone has asked for this type of visa, so now this official needs to re-setup shop. He slowly looks over my form to verify that I do indeed need a KAZA Visa, then takes out a spool of stickers and carefully removes one to then carefully place into my passport. He writes in some of the information from my form on the visa and then slowly stamps my new visa. He checks my form again to confirm that I had already paid the other official, then hands me my passport with visa affixed. I think I’m done but it’s also possible I’ve fallen asleep and am having a bad dream. Then again, that probably requires a different form completed in triplicate.

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