Transporters desperate to find solutions for northbound truck traffic stretching for kilometres south of the congested Beitbridge crossing into Zimbabwe are looking at the Groblersbrug-Martin’s Drift transit between South Africa and Botswana as an alternative way around.
But it’s not to be, says Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations.
Part of the problem is that the border isn’t authorised to issue certificates of origin.
“If you’re going that way - and say you’re carrying cargo from Johannesburg - you will have to get your necessary documentation issued by Sars (South African Revenue Service) in Jo’burg.”
However, even if this seems procedurally possible through customs resolution, the crossing south-west of Beitbridge has a far bigger infrastructural challenge, and one that can’t easily be overcome.
With only a single-lane bridge across the Limpopo River, it hasn’t been designed with high volumes in mind, Fitzmaurice says.
“Martin’s Drift has huge constraints. It’s not wide enough and it doesn’t have the capacity to handle high volumes. If there was a shift of traffic from Beitbridge to Groblersbrug as an alternative way around through Botswana, you would have as much chaos as we’re currently seeing at Beitbridge.”
Earlier this year Lesley Mpofu, Fitzmaurice’s peer at the Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat, said the same - that the border crossing’s capacity issues basically negated the corridor’s notions of directing north-west traffic that way around towards the Port of Walvis Bay.
Many others along with Mpofu and Fitzmaurice have said that it beggars belief how a multimodal bridge north at Kazungula across the Zambezi between Botswana and Zambia could have been built without due consideration of what enhanced traffic on this route could mean for the Martin’s Drift-Groblersburg crossing.