Beitbridge border this morning remained free and clear of Covid-related congestion after a horrendous December festive season that claimed the life of at least one long-distance truck driver who was stuck in slow-moving queues.
An industry insider (*) who assists private-sector freight interests operating through South Africa’s only land crossing with Zimbabwe said it had also been confirmed that two female bus passengers had died while waiting to transit through Beitbridge in soaring temperatures.
A fourth fatality was also reported but very little detail is available.
The source, whose name is being withheld out of professional courtesy for his wellbeing, said the humanitarian chaos that had ensued at the border because of stringent and impractical coronavirus testing measures had only been effectively addressed once testing had been suspended.
That happened on December 23.
Unfortunately it took another four days before the northbound queue into Zimbabwe was cleared the day after Boxing Day.
The southbound queue, which was severely affected by testing instituted by South Africa’s department of health (DoH), took a further two days and was finally cleared on December 29, four days after Christmas.
The source said it was regrettable that that so many people had been forced to wait at the border for days on end, with the resultant bottleneck creating a super-spreader situation - while health officials found themselves overwhelmed by out-of-control demand for testing.
He reiterated that the DoH had on numerous occasions in the run-up to the festive season been warned that a potentially life-threatening situation was developing on the border because of slow transit processing.
To make matters worse, when the alarming spread of the virus’s second wave forced the South African government to reintroduce tough level-3 restrictions on the eve of the New Year, Covid testing was yet again implemented at the busy Beitbridge border.
“Within a day or so another queue had built up of some four kilometres.”
Thankfully, due to industry intervention, the queue was cleared once testing was suspended – yet again.
The insider added that it was comforting that government appeared to be finally listening to the private sector about balancing Covid-curbing measures with border interests.
“We understand that testing needs to be done in an organised and well-planned manner but they need to consult with the logistics sector about what’s workable and not.
“A proposal has been put in to government and we’re waiting to hear back from them.”
* In the interests of a public-private partnership initiative that arose out of the December chaos at Beitbridge and that is aimed at improving transit efficiencies at the beleaguered border, Freight News is withholding the name of this source.