Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
COMMERCIAL traffic into South Africa and Zimbabwe through the Beitbridge Border Post was delayed by more than four hours yesterday after truck drivers blocked the New Limpopo Bridge demanding efficient clearance and passage.
The disgruntled truck drivers gathered at the bridge around midday, complaining that they were spending longer than necessary to pass through the border post.
The movement system improved around 4pm when South African and Zimbabwean security officials took control of the situation.
At the height of the protest, the drivers parked a commercial truck blocking Zimbabwe-bound traffic on South Africa’s side of the bridge.
As a result, double queues formed on the road leading to the border in both countries.
In separate interviews, the drivers blamed Zimbabwean customs officials for taking a casual approach.
“I have been on the South African side for the past four days. When I left Johannesburg, the export customs documents had already been processed, but now I have to spend days in a queue to access Zimbabwe.
“When I entered the South African border, I noted there were very few trucks and indications are that our countrymen are slow in processing customs documents,” said Mr Charles Gumbo.
He said the delays had been worsened by the many checks being conducted at the Zimbabwean side of the border.
Mr Gumbo said Zimbabwe should consider synchronising operations like what is happening in the neighbouring country.
“Imagine, I have to go through many checkpoints in Zimbabwe, yet in South Africa, everything is done at customs.
We need to put our house in order. The many checkpoints are unnecessary,” he added.
Mr Innocent Moyo said the traffic flow in Zimbabwe was very slow, adding that the main bottleneck was poor harmonisation of operations.
He said it was important for Zimbabwe to minimise its checkpoints , which are frustrating.
“We can’t stand these delays; some of us are being mugged while in queues on the South African border and we have many challenges like access to water and ablution facilities.
“Our hope is that things will get better with the new freight terminal opening but what is disturbing is that we are not seeing commitment from our border officials to get things moving,” Mr Moyo said.
According to Mr Webster Nhau, the slow movement of cargo had affected even those in transit through Zimbabwe.
“Most of us here earn money per load and if you spend a week in a queue, you are likely to get less in wages. This is not good. Government has put in a lot of money upgrading the border but workers are failing to just manage the traffic flow,” said Mr Nhau.
An average of 1 200 commercial trucks pass through the Beitbridge Border Post daily.
Efforts to get a comment from Zimra officials failed yesterday. – @tupeyo