The border post between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia in the copper belt area remains congested despite efforts by private industry concerns to lobby authorities for the immediate alleviation of delays experienced south of Kasumbalesa, an important supply-chain crossing between the two countries.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) screening procedures and related quarantine regimes have played havoc with existing efficiencies on the north-south line, holding back cargo clearing and forcing drivers to stay in their trucks for days as they wait to pass through the border.
Recently Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta), said the drivers faced daily human rights violations.
Stuck without food, water, access to necessary amenities, and moving at 20 kilometres a day – if they’re lucky – truck drivers were in need of serious intervention from the DRC, Zambia, and possibly relevant international aid organisations, Fitzmaurice said.
And whereas initial indications were that the DRC was prepared to extend operating hours to 8pm in a bid to help clear the backlog, Customs at Kasumbalesa had reverted back to only working until 5:30pm, one source said.
Some relief emerged after it appeared that the queue, at one stage more than 90 kilometres south of the border in the vicinity of Kitwe, was beginning to move faster than what had become the norm.
But this morning Fesarta was told that it was at Chambishi, halfway between Kitwe and Chingola where the road swings north to the border.
One source said trucks yesterday only moved 12 kilometres.
A regular source who speaks to FTW Online on condition of anonymity said: “Kasumbalesa is delayed due to drivers being screened and presenting passports. Obviously we weren't screened in the past and runners used to get the passports stamped while the driver was still in the queue.”
With regard to the Sydonia clearing system used by DRC Customs, he confirmed what had been reported by many other transporters passing through Kasumbalesa – it was often down and “inhibits clearing”.
Reports that strict quarantine measures could also be rolled out to Sesheke, Chirundu and Nakonde, Zambia’s respective border posts with Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, are cause for further concern.
“It’s going to be a real mess,” the source said.
“They seem fixated on this quarantine and no amount of talking is going to change their minds.”
And although preventative measures instituted to curb the spread of Covid-19 are welcomed by the freight industry, questions are being asked about why truck drivers should be forced to undergo invasive infection testing practices.
However, given the seriousness of the Covid-19 epidemic, Zambian authorities have dug their heels in, refusing to budge from the stringent corona-curbing practices enforced in an ever-extending spread throughout the country.