Dusk-to-dawn cargo-clearing stoppages, extended transit times for Zimbabwean truck drivers compared to their peers from neighbouring countries, and confounding weighbridge checks – it’s all in a day’s work (or not), at Beitbridge Border Post.
Since last week the Limpopo River crossing, notorious for congestion, corruption, and chaos when the tangled mess of traffic and travellers spins out of control, has again seen yo-yoing queues south of the border towards Musina.
According to Mike Fitzmaurice, who as chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) easily spends one third of his time just dealing with Beitbridge, the hold-ups that started last week are really threefold: diminished clearing agent work time north of the border, the time Zim drivers are allowed to pass through their own country, and weighbridge-related traffic-flow issues.
Looking just at the issue of work time in Zim, Fitzmaurice explains that slow movement south of the border has been caused by agents preferring not to work at night.
“They can work, they render an essential service, and can work 24/7, but they choose not to. As a result the runners ferrying documents back and forth between truckers and agents also don’t work.”
Although there are exceptions to this unofficial dusk-to-dawn service availability, agents and runners for the most part call it a day when the sun sets.
“Documents that are released by Zimra (the Zimbabwean Revenue Authority) late in the day, remain with runners until the following morning when they are ready to start working again.
“The long and the short of it is that nothing really moves until about 10am in the morning, then the volumes start picking up again – as Fesarta’s data monitoring has shown.”
To make matters worse, Zim drivers take their time to exit the control zone at Beitbridge because they have three days to linger in their own country before they’re required to pass through the next exit point.
And then there’s the engineering conundrum of the northbound weighbridge south of Beitbridge that, for reasons of infrastructural befuddlement, is located on the other side of the road – but more about this and the Zim transit issue in follow-up stories.