In less than 24 hours, the dangerous security situation that develops at South Africa’s land border with Zimbabwe whenever there’s congestion at Beitbridge resulted in one fatality and a truck driver fighting for his life after he was shot in the head.
In the first incident a member of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) saw how a driver was accosted in broad daylight while he was waiting in the northbound queue.
Fesarta chief executive Mike Fitzmaurice said it was somewhere between 11am and 12 noon when the trucker was targeted by armed robbers.
It’s not clear whether the assailants managed to take anything, but the employee, from Zambian transport company Rabs Logistics, sustained a serious head wound after a shot was fired into his cabin.
Fitzmaurice said he had survived the attack but it wasn’t clear how serious his condition was at the moment.
The shooting once again highlights the danger to which truck drivers are exposed when waiting in queues at Beitbridge, especially south of the border.
Accusations that law enforcers are for the most part in cahoots with criminals, if not guilty of criminality themselves, is also not a fair accusation considering yesterday’s second incidence of gun violence at Beitbridge.
According to Fitzmaurice, SA Police Service (Saps) members reacted to a tip-off that drivers were again being targeted by criminals.
When police were shot at they returned fire, killing one of the suspects.
Fitzmaurice said the fatal shooting showed that officers stationed at Beitbridge weren’t turning a blind eye to dangerous crime south of the border – a claim often levelled against them.
He added though that violent attacks appeared to be endemic to South Africa’s side of the border.
“We’re not seeing the same kind of violent thuggery north of the border. Perhaps much further north in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), but not in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Yes there are problems with crime in those countries too, but not like we have here.”
The lack of solid information as to why the northbound queue through a notoriously blocked-up border is yet again an issue also contributes to the fear and uncertainty truckers have to put up with at Beitbridge.
“We still haven’t got to the bottom of why there’s a queue at the border, nor do we know who to turn to for credible, unbiased info on the ground. All they do is point fingers at one another.”
Meanwhile, the queue this morning was said to be stretching about five kilometres towards Musina – not bad considering what the queue has been in the recent past.
However, any kind of delay south of Beitbridge seems to be dangerous.
Just ask the truck drivers, waiting like sitting ducks while armed robbers ‘work’ the line.