BY REX MPHISA
SOUTH Africa has announced plans to upgrade its side of the Beitbridge Border Post, a development the transport and shipping industry said was a positive step towards achieving a one-top border post facility.
In Zimbabwe, Zimborders Consortium is undertaking the US$300 million Beitbridge modernisation project that will see new terminal buildings being constructed under the first phase of the proposed one-stop border post facility.
In a budget speech last week, South Africa Finance minister Enoch Godongwana said Beitbridge Border Post was earmarked for modernisation, including other entry points to the neighbouring country.
“I am also pleased to announce that the project to modernise six border posts, including Beitbridge, is at an advanced stage of preparation. Feasibility studies have been completed and a request for proposal will be issued in March 2022,” Godongwana said.
He was presenting his Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum’s standing committee on trade, industry, finance and investment last year called for the harmonisation of cross-border trade systems to reduce “trade costs and time spent at borders”.
In December 2020, hundreds of travellers tested positive to the COVID-19 after they got stuck at the Beitbridge Border Post for days during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Zimborders chief executive Francois Diedrechsen said the upgrading of South African side was a step in the right direction.
“The development to upgrade the SA side is definitely a positive one and will further improve the speed and efficiency of using the Beitbridge corridor once completed. There may be merit in an additional bridge,” Diedrechsen said.
Road haulage and shipping companies also welcomed the announcement.
“Delays at Beitbridge have been topical in the trucking industry and removal of that bottleneck will see growth in the transport industry. This will obviously create more employment in related industries,” said trucker Thomas Ncube.
“Truckers have bad experiences at Beitbridge; particularly the violent SA side where daylight armed robberies are common when we wait in queues to be processed into Zimbabwe.”
At least two truckers were shot and killed on northbound queues on the South African side of Beitbridge recently. There have been no arrests yet.
Zimbabwe’s commercial side of the upgraded border is now operational and has reduced trucks’ downtime from two to three days to just eight hours.
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