Bottlenecks at South Africa’s Beitbridge border into Zimbabwe reached crisis levels earlier today as border officials battled to deal with the volume of people making their way north.
Initially it appeared that soldiers deployed by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) were stopping trucks and cars as the border had apparently been barricaded.
One source said the SANDF was under “no directive from government to keep the borders open”.
Matters were made worse by customs officials apparently not reporting for duty.
People and cargo that had successfully transited through Beitbridge on the South Africa side also faced the prospect of downed systems on the Zimbabwean side.
This after another source said the immigration system by the Zimbabwean Revenue Authority (Zimra) “went down at midnight and up to now hasn’t been sorted”.
The source told transit assistance bureau Transist that Zimra officials were trying to resolve matters to allow essential goods to pass through as effortlessly as possible.
But Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta), said it was an embarrassment what was happening at Beitbridge.
“Even fuel, food and other essential supplies aren’t let through.”
He attributed the chaos at the border to bad management – immigration and revenue officials not knowing what they were doing.
Commenting on yesterday’s report (https://www.ftwonline.co.za/article/zambian-police-involved-case-alleged-transport-extortion) that the border south of the DRC into Zambia was experiencing congestion because of police reportedly extorting bribes from truckers south of Chingola, Fitzmaurice said it was nothing new.
“Whenever trucks are stopped, police find some reason to see how much money they can make.”
With day one of lockdown barely halfway, Fitzmaurice said the whole north-south line was turning into a mess with none of the borders working properly – Kasumbalesa (DRC-Zambia), Chirundu (Zambia-Zimbabwe) and Beitbridge.
In an update at about 1pm, Transist posted on its WhatsApp community that the Beitbridge border was not closed.
“The volume of traffic is a result of people that did not make the cut-off time to cross the border before the lockdown at midnight.
“The army barricaded the road just outside Musina near China Mall to prevent build-up of traffic and allow people who work at the border to get through.
“The slow pace at the border is due to the health screening of passengers, travellers and drivers as Zimra only has one screening station.”
Officials from the SA Revenue Service were said to be assisting their peers at Zimra in a bid to fast-track border processing.
At the time of posting this report, FTW Online learned that Botswana had announced quarantine protocols for South African traffic entering that country (please see report elsewhere).