Although the South African Revenue Service (Sars) is yet to provide the figures, the evening numbers of trucks passing through Beitbridge are expected to show an improvement after Zimbabwe decided to allow border agents to work at night.
The country’s dusk-to-dawn Covid curfew has long been cited as the contributor to the northbound queue as no one was on hand to process trucks once border agents and runners went home.
This morning border executive Mike Fitzmaurice said the decision to enforce the essential worker status of agents and runners had been gazetted in Zimbabwe, thereby ruling out any ambiguity over the role of these personnel.
The chief director of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations said: “We managed to get that changed about three weeks ago.”
He said although agents, at least, were returning to their posts, it was not happening fast enough.
“The hours have improved although it’s a long way from where we want it to be, but it is improving. I’m waiting for last night’s figures from Sars to get an update to see what the night movement was like. “Southbound is working nicely. It’s fast, but the northbound queue is still quite sluggish.”
Unfortunately issues with getting runners to return to work remain.
“The problem is that the runners are still the ones we can’t get to because they’re not formalised into any sort of a group and don’t have access to virtual meetings.
“They are employed by transporters and we had to put out information on the various (WhatsApp) groups that they can now operate 24/7.”
So why is it still taking so long?
Said Fitzmaurice: “I think that’s a slow process because we’re not directly responsible for informing the runners. It’s up to transporters who employ these people. I don’t know how fast they’ve done it or whether they’ve done it at all.”
What is known is that the queue, at least, appears to be shrinking.
Whereas last night it had reached all the way to Musina, this morning it was at the Baobab Truck Park, ‘only’ eight kilometres from the border.