Road hauliers crossing from Zimbabwe into South Africa continue to struggle through the “Beitbridge bottleneck” while customs and border management authorities from the two countries prefer to play the blame game while simultaneously refusing to assist with solution seeking.
Meanwhile trucks heading south can expect to wait up to two days, prompting transporters to turn to the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) for assistance.
Unfortunately Fesarta’s attempts to trouble-shoot reasons for delays north of the border are falling on deaf ears as the SA Revenue Service (Sars), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZRA), and Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) won’t share crucial data.
Said the NGO’s chief executive, Mike Fitzmaurice: “For some bizarre reason they won’t tell me how many trucks are being cleared. They’re saying it’s highly confidential information and is not allowed.
“Instead they’re playing the blame game, with Zimra saying it’s Sars and Sars saying it’s Zimra.
“Zimra, for example, is saying Covid testing south of the border takes too long but Sars is denying this.”
And as the queue north of the border stretches for at least five kilometres due to slow processing, Zinana is not much help either.
The same goes for the Border Management Authority (BMA) in South Africa.
Meanwhile the Transport Association of Zimbabwe has asked Fitzmaurice to go to Beitbridge on a fact-finding mission in order to come up with long-term solutions for the routinely congested border crossing.
Fitzmaurice though has his reservations about such an initiative.
“I can’t see what it would accomplish. BMA and Sars have made it clear that they won’t allow an outsider to look into their affairs. They can’t give me figures. The same goes for Zinara and Zimra.”
What was baffling about the secrecy of Beitbridge and the institutions in charge of the border was that it was an isolated case of lack of transparency, Fitzmaurice said.
“Anywhere else all I have to do is pick up the phone and ask for information. That’s why Fesarta knows exactly what’s happening at other borders in the region with the exception of Beitbridge.
“Either they have something to hide or they don’t want us to know how bad things really are.”