BY REX MPHISA IN BEITBRIDGE
THE Beitbridge border post is failing to cope with increased traffic made up of mainly haulage trucks shuttling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
This has resulted in intermittent traffic jams and lengthy vehicle queues that have dissected Beitbridge town into two.
On the South African side similar chaos caused by bottlenecks at the border stretched for more than 10km with the tail of the queue at the China Mall on the periphery of Musina town.
The traffic jams have been attributed largely to Covid-19-related scrutiny in both countries and to the closure of alternative routes, leaving Beitbridge as the sole artery feeding the entire region.
Zambia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, parts of Tanzania and northern parts of Mozambique use the Beitbridge border post for their access to South African ports and industries.
Throughout the lockdown period that started in March, Beitbridge has remained open to commercial traffic and returning residents mostly Zimbabweans coming back.
This has opened a windfall for the country in terms of revenue collection in tolls and relative transit and insurance fees.
A Zimbabwe National Roads Authority employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity said traffic had picked up with all regional haulers using Beitbridge that had been deserted for Botswana’s Kazungula route closed when Botswana shut all its borders.
The increased haulage truck movement has, however, been met with mixed reactions at the border town where residents fear increased coronavirus infections considering haulage truck drivers’ nature of interactions in their work.
Cases at Beitbridge shot from three to 15 when some arrivals from South Africa were confirmed positive.
Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe board member Catherine Hlangwayo said delays were mostly due to drivers waiting to be screened for Covid-19.
“Information has to be recorded from drivers and some of them are slow causing delays,” Hlangwayo said.
“We are working with the port health officials to see an improved situation.”
Some transport brokers said some trucks were taking up to three days to reach customs and excise desks for scanning and other formalities.
“Trucks are taking long to get to customs and excise points for both physical examinations either for imports or exports,” said transport broker Cyprian Badze.
“If a trucker leaves the queue, getting back into the line takes hours with the trucks moving bumper to bumber,” he said, referring to the closeness of the vehicles.