Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
WORK on the massive US$300 million modernisation of Beitbridge Border Post into a world class commercial hub has gathered momentum with major developments under the first phase of the project almost complete.
The modernisation of Beitbridge is one of the key projects being undertaken by the Second Republic to promote the ease of doing business and trade facilitation.
Civil works are being rolled out in three phases among them pre-commencement works (phase one), internal border infrastructure development (phase two) and outside border infrastructure development (phase three).
The project will see new terminals being built for each vehicle category. They will include new vehicle parking areas and feeder roadways.
New cargo scanning equipment will be installed to allow for faster inspection of cargo and detection of fraud, contraband and potential threats; explosives, radioactive materials, among others. Manual unloading and inspection will also be reduced.
A new ICT system will be installed that will allow for an automated queuing and payment system for truckers.
As part of the deal, a new housing development will be built for the town of Beitbridge, as well as facilities for informal traders and other public amenities.
Other facilities under the project include a fire station, housing sewer lines, housing electrical supply lines, a reservoir, water pipelines to the reservoir, a wastewater treatment plant and a water pump station.
The Zimborders Consortium secured nearly US$300 million for the upgrade and modernisation of Beitbridge Border Post, the country’s busiest inland port of entry and one of the region’s key transit points.
The consortium is made up of a group of Zimbabweans, South Africans, international entrepreneurs, financial institutions and experts. Construction and development of all works — both in port and out of the port — is scheduled to be completed in 30 months.
The project is being implemented under a public-private partnership involving the Government and private players who are providing funding.
It is being implemented under a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement which will see Zimborders recouping its funds through border access fees to be collected over 17-and-a-half years, before handing over the property to Government.
It is also envisaged that the volume of humans and cargo will increase when the project is completed next year.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the border post at the weekend, civil works were ongoing and contractors were busy working on the lanes and access roads. The parking area on the section for commercial vehicles is almost complete.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Deputy Minister Mike Madiro said the modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post will increase the volume of traffic and improve efficiency in terms of the movement of travellers.
“Government is putting up a world class one-stop shop facility, which will not only improve the ease of doing business, but facilitate regional trade. There is also going to be a reduction in corruption since there would be very minimal human interface due to the high-tech facilities that will be there,” he said.
“The modernisation of the Beitbridge will increase the volume of traffic and the service levels are going to be very high and modern in line with international standards.”
Deputy Minister Madiro said the upgrading and modernisation of Beitbridge Border Post will also speed up the implementation of the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) concept between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Under the OSBP travellers and cargo will be cleared once for entry and exit in both countries.
“The concept of a one-stop border post will be implemented the moment we complete this process of modernising Beitbridge Border Post in terms the high-tech facilities, ICT, infrastructure and the human capital element,” said Deputy Minister Madiro.
“Beitbridge remains the busiest border post in sub–Saharan Africa and this general perception that the coming in of Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi River and One-Stop Border Post facilities connecting Botswana and Zambia will affect our border in terms of economic benefits does not hold water. In fact, given the ongoing infrastructural developments and Beitbridge being a shorter route, we got all the advantages over Kazungula, which will only complement us,” he said.
“In terms of regional integration, our facility is in line the overall Sadc Regional Infrastructure.
Development Master Plan. It is going to be one of the best facilities in Africa.”
Deputy Minister Madiro said upon completion, the modernised border post would help reduce cost of doing business, contribute to industrialisation and enhance trade and Sadc regional integration.
“From a business perspective, we now have Kazungula Border Post as a potential competitor in terms of traffic, but in the case of Beitbridge Border Post we have an advantage in the sense that our route is shorter. Businesses will save money by using our facility because the Kazungula route is longer compared to the Beitbridge one,” he said.
Deputy Minister Madiro said contractors will soon roll out the second phase of the project.
“The section, which is only handling commercial traffic is almost complete and it is part of the first phase and next month, it will actually open for the freight terminal. The section for human traffic is part of the second phase and that is what they are working on,” he said.
At the new freight terminal, contractors have created bypass roads and various other parking lots and road works in the border area.
“Already, the site office of the contractor has been completed and it will soon be commissioned.”
Beitbridge East MP Cde Albert Nguluvhe said the border post expansion project has also generated employment for over 200 locals.
“The modernisation of Beitbridge Border Post will certainly change the face of Beitbridge. It is a positive development for the local community because the project has created employment for more than 200 locals who are working for the contracted companies,” he said.
“In fact, more jobs will be created as there are 200 houses which are going to be built at the Zimra village. When the border starts to operate, we will try and make sure local security and cleaning companies are given first preference so that our people benefit from the facility.”
Cde Nguluvhe said the project is a clear testimony that the Second Republic under the stewardship of President Mnangagwa is committed to improving the lives of the people.
Finance and Economic development Deputy Minister Clemence Chiduwa last week told Parliament that work under the first phase of the project was now at 60 percent completion level.
He said constructors are on course for the targeted completion date of September 14 for the first phase. The project also entails the upgrading of various roads and services outside the border to enhance the smooth flow of traffic as well as developing a new ICT system within the border.
Zimborders Consortium chief executive officer, Mr Francois Diedrechsen recently told Chronicle that among other works, they expect to build three new in-port terminals with warehouses and roads. Out of port works include constructing a new water reservoir, houses for Government workers deployed to the border, a new fire station and a new oxidation dam.
He said the company also expect to employ approximately 450 new full-time employees as they ramp up the works.
Beitbridge is one of busiest border posts in Africa, which not only connects Zimbabwe and South Africa but also serves as the transit point for the majority of north-south trade in Southern Africa. Before its closure in January as part of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, an estimated 20 000 people and 500 commercial trucks passed through the border post daily.
The numbers often doubled during peak holiday season with traffic delays running up to several days
In July 2018, President Mnangagwa presided over a ground-breaking ceremony at Beitbridge border post, ahead of its revamp. — @mashnets.