South Africa’s northernmost crossing into Botswana will remain closed because of flood damage when the swollen Limpopo River burst its banks earlier this week, resulting in the closure of Groblersbrug Border Post.
Transporters preferring that route into north-eastern Botswana were hoping that the gradual flooding would only lead to a short-lived closure of the border.
This morning though a spokesperson for the Transit Assistance Bureau (Transist) said officials believed Groblersbrug would be closed for three to four weeks.
“The damage is quite extensive after flooding affected the electrical substations and the generator systems.”
Consequently, freight going from Johannesburg to locations such as Francistown will have to be trucked via borders further south of Groblersbrug – Kopfontein east of Gaborone and even Skilpadshek further south on the N4 Platinum Highway.
Although that’s still feasible, such a detour is far more impractical for longer-haul transporters using the Kazungula ferry across the Zambezi as an alternative route into the Copperbelt area of Zambia and the DRC.
The spokesperson explained that with the Zambezi’s rising levels posing a threat to transporters having to access the flooded slipways of a treacherous river crossing, and with only one of three pontoons currently in working order, Kazungula was simply not a practical option for transporters at the moment.
And yet the other way into the Copperbelt, much further east via Beitbridge and Chirundu through Zimbabwe, is not exactly free-flowing, especially with reports coming through yesterday and this morning that the former is yet again getting congested.
Then there’s the Vic Falls-Livingstone transit across the Zambezi, right in the centre, with Kazungula to the west and Chirundu to the east.
Although it has grown in popularity among overborder transporters, Zambia has decreed that as of March 1 Livingstone will no longer allow road freight through because the volume of trucks using this route is not helping its attempts to revive its tourism sector.
Amid this tangle of snagged logistics, long-distance hauliers are getting increasingly agitated about linkage challenges across the region.
Do you go all the way around Groblersbrug to Kazungula?
Do you ramp up volume via Vic Falls while you still can?
Or do you go via Beitbridge where bottlenecking is the order of the day?
Said one transporter hauling bulk freight into the Copperbelt: “Pretty soon it’s not going to be worth our while doing business any more. With all the issues we have to face, why put up with it at all. We may as well close our doors.”