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Normalcy returns at Beitbridge border

The private company managing the new Beitbridge border post terminal has largely cleared the chaos that characterised the early days of the post’s opening last month and wants to increase efficiency once Covid-19 related restrictions are removed and pre-clearing of cargo improves.

ZimBorders Consortium has assumed control of cargo processing following a US$300m first phase border upgrade and now wants Covid-19 related labour issues resolved to deal with bottlenecks and congestion at Africa’s busiest border post.

ZimBorders spokesperson and concessionaire executive Mr Francois Diedrechsen said the loss of labour at night when clearing agents adhered to the 10pm to 6am Covid-19 curfew restrictions was still a point of concern.

The management of traffic would greatly improve or normalise if the restrictions were eased.

“ZimBorders has the capacity to handle traffic but we can’t lose 12 hours a day. You’re not going to beat the system if you’re not going to catch up.

“Not having staff to do evening work is the definite challenge,” he said.

Before the Covid-19 restrictions, the border was open 24 hours a day but now closes at night during which an additional 400 trucks can be handled.

Mr Diedrechsen said the situation had greatly improved following engagements between ZimBorders and Government agencies such as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

The pre-clearing of cargo needed to be stepped up to ease congestion at Beitbridge.

“For a border to be effectively run you need pre-clearing, and to clear a serious backlog out of the system you actually need a dramatic amount of pre-clearing.”

Transport minister Felix Mhona and the Federation of East, and Southern African Transport Associations (FESATA) have said the recent gridlock had nothing to do with Zimbabwean payment systems and infrastructural bottlenecks.

“The congestion at Beitbridge border post started a few weeks before the opening of the new freight terminal as a result of Covid-19 related restrictions on movement both on the Zimbabwean and South African sides,” Minister Mhona said recently.

He said the challenges were regrettable but Government was moving to resolve them.

“As we are implementing measures to sustainably stem all the challenges, stakeholders must be pleased that the situation is normalising.”

In the immediate aftermath of the new terminal’s opening, truckers had been enduring delays of up to a week but the pace of clearance has since improved following the intervention of ZimBorders and Zimra.

Mike Fitzmaurice, the FESATA chief executive, said the chaos was partly attributable to some people who were used to circumventing compliance systems before the introduction of the watertight systems last month.

“There was an inbred culture that had been going on for decades where truckers were able to cross with unprocessed documents after corrupting officials,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.

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