Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The movement of commercial cargo at the Beitbridge Border Post is gradually improving after the Border Efficiency Management Committee introduced a raft of measures last week.
In the past two weeks, truck drivers were spending four to seven days before leaving or entering Zimbabwe due to congestion at SADC’s busiest inland port.
The delays heightened at the opening of the new freight terminal where the traffic flow had teething challenges relating to tolling and lack of coordination among the critical border stakeholders.
At some point, the truck drivers staged a passive protest complaining about the new border access fees of an average of US$200 per truck, without matching services. On the other hand, some drivers were reportedly entering the border without processing their customs documents in advance, thereby blocking those who will be carrying pre-cleared cargo.
According to one border official, an express lane was opened on Friday for those carrying transit cargo and those with pre-cleared goods.
“As a committee, we have had to adjust where things were not moving and we are getting the results, the passage is becoming seamless.
“Those who have pre-cleared their cargo before arrival at the port are using the fast lane (green route), while those with outstanding are using the other route via the new terminal,” said the official.
The border official said it was critical for the transporters to use the pre-clearance facility to avoid unnecessary delays at the port.
Zimborders Consortium chief executive officer Mr François Diedrechsen said they were working round the clock to address all the emerging bottlenecks to ease the flow of traffic.
“Things are improving with each day and we have made headway on southbound traffic. At the moment, we are busy facilitating a speed flow of incoming traffic, where there is still a huge backlog.
“The opening of an express lane for all cargo vehicles which arrive and have their paperwork done in advance has become helpful. We are hoping that with more transporters embrace the pre-clearance system, we will have less of the delays,” he said.
Zimborders is responsible for operations and maintenance of the new freight terminal under a 17,5 year build-operate-transfer agreement with the Government.
The consortium is providing the funding to upgrade the border at a cost of US$300 million, while the Government is providing technical support.
To address the chaos on their side, the South Africans are re-routing all northbound commercial trucks to truck stops before they arrive and they will only leave for the border upon completion of all the necessary pre-clearance procedures.
Limpopo spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Community Safety, Mr Mike Maringa said the trucks were being re-directed some 50 km before reaching the Beitbridge Border Post.
He said the move would ensure there was less congestion on the N1 highway between now and the coming festive season.